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Chapter 9

PS102 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Confirmation Bias, Affect Heuristic, Availability Heuristic


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PS102
Professor
Eileen Wood
Chapter
9

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Chapter 9: Thinking and Intelligence
Though: Using What We Know
Some cognitive psychologists see the mind as an information processor the brain does not
passively record info, but actively alters and organizes it. When we take action, we physically
manipulate the environment; when we think, we mentally manipulate internal representations of
objects, activities and situations
The Elements of Cognition
Concept: a mental category that groups objects, relations, activities, abstractions or qualities
having common properties
Concepts simplify and summarize info about the world so that it is manageable and we can
make decisions quickly & efficiently
Basic concepts: concepts that have a moderate number of instances and that are easier to acquire
than those having few or many instances (e.g. apple vs. fruit more basic vs. more abstract)
Prototype: an especially representative example of a concept when we need to decide whether
something belongs to a concept, we are likely to compare it to a prototype
Benjamin Lee Whorf’s theory: words used to express concepts may influence or shape how we
think about them; language moulds cognition and perception; grammar and the tenses in which we
speak affects how we think about the world e.g. feminine word in French is described as elegant,
soft but the same word in Spanish is describe as strong, sturdy
Proposition: a unit of meaning that is made up of concepts and expresses a unitary idea
represents their relation to each other
Cognitive schema: an integrated mental network of knowledge, beliefs, and expectations
concerning a particular topic or aspect of the world (e.g. gender schemas)
Mental images: a mental representation that mirrors or resembles the thing it represents; mental
images occur in many and perhaps all sensory modalities; they are the construction of cognitive
schemas
Can also happen with hearing a song or slogan [in your mind’s ear]
Concepts propositions cognitive schemas mental images
How Conscious is thought?
Solving a problem, drawing up plans, making calculated decisions: done consciously
SUBCONSCIOUS THINKING
Subconscious processes: mental processes occurring outside of conscious awareness but
accessible to consciousness when necessary
Allow us to handle more info and perform more complex tasks than if we depended entirely
on conscious & deliberate thought (e.g. driving, decoding letters to make a word becomes
automatic)
Multitasking is usually inefficient: toggling between 2+ tasks increases the time required to
complete them, stress increases, errors increase, reaction times lengthen and memory
suffers
When you do two things at once, brain activity devoted to each task decreases while
switching between tasks, prefrontal cortex [which prioritizes and enables higher-order
thinking] becomes relatively inactive
NONCONSCIOUS THINKING

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Nonconscious processes: mental processes occurring outside of and not available to conscious
awareness remains outside of consciousness (e.g. seeing a puzzle, not knowing how to solve it and
hours later you have a revelation on how to do it)
Insight & intuition involve several stages of mental processing
o Clues in the problem automatically activate certain memories or knowledge; begin
to see a pattern, although you cannot yet say what it is
o Eventually your thinking becomes conscious and you become aware of a probable
solution feels like a sudden revelation pops into your mind from nowhere
Implicit learning: learning that occurs when you acquire knowledge about something without
being aware of how you did so and without being able to state exactly what it is you have learned
MINDLESSNESS
Mental inflexibility, inertia and obliviousness to the present context (e.g. acting, speaking,
and making decisions out of habit without stopping to analyze what we are doing and why)
Keeps us from recognizing when a change in a situation requires a change in behaviour
Jerome Kagan argued that fully conscious awareness is needed only when we must make a
deliberate choice, when events happen that cannot be handld automatically and when
unexpected moods and feelings arise
Reasoning Rationally
Reasoning: the drawing of conclusions or inferences from observations, facts or assumptions; a
purposeful mental activity that involves operating on information in order to reach conclusions
Formal Reasoning: Algorithms and Logic
Formal reasoning problems: the info needed for drawing a conclusion is specified clearly, and
there is a single right answer
Algorithm: a problem-solving strategy guaranteed to produce a solution even if the user does not
know how it works
Deductive reasoning: a form of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from certain
premises; if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true
Premise true + premise true = conclusion must be true
I have no work Saturday + today is Saturday = I have no work today
Inductive reasoning: a form of reasoning in which the premises provide support for a conclusion,
but it is still possible for the conclusion to be false
Premise true + premise true + possibility of discrepant info = conclusion probable true
People often think it is generalizing from specific observations in past experience, but
premises can also be general, and can also have specific conclusions
Informal Reasoning: Heuristics and Dialectal Thinking
Heuristic: a rule of thumb that suggests a course of action or guides problem-solving but does not
guarantee an optimal solution
Used when someone is faced with incomplete information on which to base a decision and
may therefore need to resort to rules of thumb that have been proven effective in the past
Dialectal reasoning: a process in which opposing facts or ideas are weighed and compared, with a
view to determining the best solution or resolving differences
What a jury has to do to arrive at a verdict consider arguments for and against the
defendant’s guilt, point and counterpoint
Reflective Judgment AKA Critical Thinking
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7 cognitive stages on the road to reflective judgment at each stage, people make different
assumptions about how things are known and use different ways of justifying or defending
their beliefs:
o 2 Pre-reflective stages: tend to assume that a correct answer always exists and that
it can be obtained directly trough the senses “I know what I’ve seenor through
authorities “They said so on the news” – people do not distinguish between
knowledge and belief or between belief or evidence & see no reason to justify a
belief
o 3 Quasi-reflective stages: people recognize that some things cannot be known with
absolute certainty and they realize that judgments should be supported by reasons,
yet they pay attention only to evidence that fits what they already believe they will
defend a position saying “We all have a right to our own opinion”
o 2 Reflective stages: people at the reflective stages are willing to consider evidence
from a variety or sources and to reason dialectically
A person’s reasoning can vary across two or three adjacent stages depending on the
problem or issue
Gradual development of thinking skills amount uni students represents an abandonment of
“ignorant certainty” in favour or “intelligent confusion”.
Barriers to Reasoning Rationally
Exaggerating the Improbable (and Minimizing the Probable)
Inclination to exaggerate the probability of rare events (e.g. lotteries & disaster insurance)
but to not be alarmed by serious future events such as global warming
Affect heuristic: the tendency to consult one’s emotions (affect) instead of estimating probabilities
objectively
Emotions can often help us make decisions by narrowing our options or allowing us to act
quickly in times of danger but they can also mislead us by preventing us from accurately
assessing risk
E.g. mad cow diseases makes us act emotionally to the name, whereas the scientific name
makes us think more objectively
Availability heuristic: the tendency to judge the probability of a type of event by how easy it is to
think of examples or instances
E.g. tornadoes kill people, but a fraction of the number that asthma kills
Catastrophes and shocking accidents evoke a strong emotional reaction in us & stand out in
our minds
Avoiding Loss
In general, people try to avoid or minimize risks and losses when they make decisions
Framing effect: the tendency for people’s choices to be affected by how a choice is presented, or
framed; for example, whether it is worded in terms of potential losses or gains
E.g. a condom that has a 95% success rate is seen as more effective than one with a 5%
failure rate
People will take a risk if they se it as a way to avoid loss
The Fairness Bias
A sense of fairness often takes precedence over rational self-interest when people make
economic choices
The desire for fair play sometimes outweighs the desire for economic gain
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