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Chapter 4

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Psychology 2720A/B
Clive Seligman

CHAPTER 4: SOCIAL PERCEPTION: PERCEIVING THE SELF AND OTHERS What We See in Others: Social Perception • Attributions: causal judgements about why an event or behaviour occurred • The causal judgement we make about another person’s behaviour influences how we behave toward him or her • The Intuitive Scientists • Intuitive Scientists: untrained scientists who try to make causal judgements in a rational, scientific manner • Covariation Model of Attribution: an attribution theory proposing that we make causal judgements by determining whether a particular behaviour correlated with a person, a situation, or some combination of persons and situations • The False Consensus Effect • When individuals have personal experience with a situation, they usually assume that most other people would respond similarly to themselves, and they draw conclusions about the cause of behaviour based on this assumption • False Consensus Effect: the tendency to assume that other people share our own attitudes and behaviours to a greater extent than is actually the case • Why does false consensus effect occur? •one reason for the bias is that we tend to interact mainly with other people who agree with us •A second reason is a motivational one - we want to believe that others agree with us •People sometimes underestimate consensus when it makes them look good • Discounting and Augmentation • When we make attributions about a person based on just one observation, we rely on our knowledge of ‘plausible causes’ in the situation • There is a plausible internal or dispositional cause, which is often non-observable and one or more plausible external or situational causes, which are normally observable • Discounting Principle: a rule of attribution that states that the perceived role of a cause will be discounted (reduced) if other plausible causes are also present • Augmentation Principle: a rule of attribution that states that the perceived role of a cause will be augmented (increased) if other factors are present that would work against the behaviour The Correspondence Bias: A Fundamental Attribution Error • Correspondence Bias: the tendency to assume that people’s actions and words reflect their personality, their attitudes, or some other internal factor, rather than external or situational factors • The overreliance on personality traits to understand behaviour is an example of the correspondence bias • The correspondence bias represents a failure to use the discounting principle • The correspondence bias can involve both overestimating the role of personality factors and underestimating the role of situational factors • Causes of the Correspondence Bias CHAPTER 4: SOCIAL PERCEPTION: PERCEIVING THE SELF AND OTHERS • Several processes or mechanisms that contribute to our tendency to see other’s behaviour as caused by stable internal characteristics even when there are plausible external explanations •First we may simply overlook to be unaware of situational factors that influence other people’s behaviour •A second cause of the correspondence bias is that we simply underestimate the power of situational factors •A third factor contributing to the correspondence bias is that the process of taking situational factors into account requires cognitive resources, which may not always be available • The initial step of assuming that a behaviour reflected an internal disposition is relatively automatic and spontaneous • The second step of using situational information to adjust the initial impression, however, is not automatic and in fact requires significant cognitive resources • Because the second step requires deliberative thought, it is much more susceptible to disruption than is the first step • Culture and the Corresponding Bias • A fourth possible cause of the correspondence bias is cultural influence • Specifically, the emphasis in Western cultures on individualism and personal accomplishments • It is possible that this emphasis on individualism causes people from Western cultures to focus on internal, personal variables like personality traits, attitudes, and values when explaining behaviour • The Appeal of Social Psychology • People often overlook the situational forces that influence behaviour and instead interpret others’ behaviour in terms of internal, dispositional factors Beyond Words: Understanding Nonverbal Behaviour • Nonverbal Behaviour: actions and cues that communicate meaning in ways other than by words • It’s Not Only What you Say, It’s How You Say It • Another aspect of interpersonal communication that often matters just as much, and sometimes more, than the words themselves: How the words are expressed • When verbal and nonverbal cues directly conflict, observers rely more on the nonverbal cues in interpreting the messages meaning • Typically nonverbal cues do not directly conflict with verbal content, but instead provide additional information • Nonverbal information does enhance out understanding of interaction • Nonverbal information was helpful to participants and improved their comprehension of the social interactions • Nonverbal cues are particularly useful in judging the emotion of speakers • One of the reasons nonverbal cues are seen as informative about true feelings is that they are not completely under voluntary control • Developmental Changes in the Weighting of Verbal and Nonverbal Cues • Research with children indicates that very young children do not possess such understandings CHAPTER 4: SOCIAL PERCEPTION: PERCEIVING THE SELF AND OTHERS • Presumably, children must learn such things as the difficulty of hiding emotions before they can judge the appropriate weight to give to verbal content and nonverbal cues in spoken communication • Facial Expressions • Darwin believed that facial expressions evolved from more primitive behaviours and all humans expressed their emotions similarly • If facial expressions are biologically based and have evolved form primitive behaviours, then people from different cultures should be able to recognize facial expressions from other cultures relatively accurately • Emotions were correctly identified by the majority of participants • Findings supports Darwin’s argument that facial expressions of certain fundamental emotions are biologically based and mostly similar in all cultures Gender and Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Behaviour • Gender Differences in Nonverbal Behaviour • Women are better judges than men of other peoples emotions • This may reflect that women are more oriented toward interpersonal harmony than men; alternatively, it may be that women must be more vigilant about other’s emotions because they are less physically powerful and therefore more vulnerable than men • Whereas women are better judges of emotions than are men, women’s own facial expressions of emotion are generally easier to judge than are men’s expressions • This difference may reflect the stereotype that it is more socially acceptable for women to express their emotions than it is for men • Women may express greater nonverbal intimacy than men because women are more concerned about interpersonal relationships, or because men are not supposed to show their feelings • Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Behaviour • Cultures differ in their display rules • Display Rules: norms in a culture for how and when emotions should be expressed • It is considered inappropriate in Japan to show strong emotions, especially strong negative emotions • Cultures also differ in nonverbal gestures and greetings • Finally, there are substantial differences in how close or far apart individuals stand in different cultures What We See In Ourselves: Self-Perception • The Looking Glass Self • We rely on other people for much of our self-concept • First, other people sometimes tell us about ourselves • Looking Glass Self: the tendency to internalize other people’s judgements about us into our self-concept • Social Comparison • A second way that other people are involved in judgements about the self is that we often compare ourselves to other people CHAPTER 4: SOCIAL PERCEPTION: PERCEIVING THE SELF AND OTHERS • Social Comparison: the process of comparing ourselves to tothers in order to judge the self • We often rely on comparisons with other people to assess our abilities and our attitudes • Festinger hypothesized that, if possible, we test our abilities or beliefs in an objective physical way • Because social comparisons often provide the only way for us to make important judgements about the self, we engage in the process of social comparison frequently and automatically • Social Comparison with Similar Others: Wanting to Assess Oneself Accurately •Festinger’s theory of social comparison was based on the assumption that people are motivated to make accurate judgements about their abilities and opinions •The goal of assessing our abilities accurately is usually best achieved by comparing ourselves with other people who are similar to us on dimensions that are relevant to performance • Upward Social Comparison: Wanting to Improve •Performance is not static: we can become better at many things, even when our ability is low •If we want to improve ourselves, one excellent source of information about how to do so is other people •Upward Social Comparison: social comparison with people who are better off or more skilled than we are • Downward Social Comparison: Wanting to Feel Better •There is at least one additional motivation, however, that also occurs frequently: the desire to feel good •Downward Social Comparison: social comparison with people who are worse off or less skilled than we are •Results showed that when participants engaged in social comparison to feel better about themselves, they usually compared themselves to someone who was worse off than themselves • Diverse Consequences of Upward Social Comparisons •Although upward often provide useful information, we can also experience negative affect because our circumstances or out performances seem worse in contrast to those of someone more accomplished •Upward comparisons can sometimes make us angry and resentful, if we think that we should be doing as well as other people who are better off •Relative Deprivation: a feeling of anger or resentment about out outcomes based on comparisons with better-off others •Also some conditions, however, under which upward social comparisons may not elicit negative affect at all, but instead might produce hope or optimism about the future •How we react to the success of someone close to us also depends on how close we are to them • Cultural Differences in Social Comparison • Individualist Versus Collectivist Cultures CHAPTER 4: SOCIAL PERCEPTION: PERCEIVING THE SELF AND OTHERS •Most social psychologists are interested in cultural differences have compared two types of societies: individualistic and collectivism •Individualist cultures include most Western European and North America countries whereas collectivist cultures include most East Asian, South American, and African •Individualist Cultures: cultures in which people are seen as independent beings who possess stable abilities, traits, and attitudes •Collectivist Cultures:: cultures in which people are seen as interdependent beings who should contribute to harmonious group functioning • Cultural Differences in the Frequency of Social Comparison •Found that Asian Canadians engaged in more social comparison than did European Canadians •This cultural difference in the frequency of social comparison was heightened after poor performance •Suggested that people from collectivist cultures are more motivated to improve themselves than are people from individualist cultures •This heightened desires for self-improvement leads people from collectivist cultures to engage in more social comparison, especially after poor performance • Cultural Differences in Responses to Social Comparison •Suggested that people from individualist cultures are primarly motivated to pursue success, whereas people form collectivist cultures are primarily motivated to avoid failures • Self-Perception Theory • Self-Perception Theory: a theory proposing that we often judge our own internal states by reviewing our past beaviour and inferring internal states consistent with our behaviour unless there were clear external causes of our behaviour • We review out behaviour and
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