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Chapter 2. Person Perception: Forming Impressions of Others. Six General Principles. minimal information salience context categorization enduring cognitive structures needs and goals. What Information Do We Use?.

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chapter 2

Chapter 2

Person Perception: Forming Impressions of Others

six general principles
Six General Principles
  • minimal information
  • salience
  • context
  • categorization
  • enduring cognitive structures
  • needs and goals
what information do we use
What Information Do We Use?
  • People often decide very quickly what others are like based on minimal information.
what information do we use4
What Information Do We Use?
  • Roles
    • People tend to think of others within a role context first and only then according to personality traits
what information do we use5
What Information Do We Use?
  • Physical Cues
    • Appearance and behavior are key determinants of our first impressions
what information do we use6
What Information Do We Use?
  • Salience
    • People pay attention to the figure rather than to the ground or setting
    • The most salient cues are used most heavily
      • Brightness, noisiness, motion, and novelty
what information do we use7
What Information Do We Use?
  • Effects of Salience
      • Draws attention
      • Influences perceptions of causality
      • Produces evaluatively extreme judgments
      • Produce more consistency of judgment
what information do we use8
What Information Do We Use?
  • We move very quickly from observable information (appearance & behavior) to personality trait inferences
    • Traits are more economical to remember
    • Trait inferences occur automatically
    • We use implicit personality theories to infer traits from other traits
what information do we use9
What Information Do We Use?
  • Which Traits?
    • We tend to evaluate others along two dimensions:
      • Competence
      • Interpersonal qualities
what information do we use10
What Information Do We Use?
  • Central Traits
    • Some traits may be more central than others, that is, highly associated with many other characteristics
      • “Warm-Cold” appears to be such a trait (Kelley, 1950)
what information do we use11
What Information Do We Use?
  • Categorization
    • We automatically perceive stimuli as part of a group or category
what information do we use12
What Information Do We Use?
  • Consequences of Categorization
    • leads to category-based social judgments (stereotyping)
    • speeds processing time
    • can lead to errors
what information do we use13
What Information Do We Use?
  • The Continuum Model of Impression Formation
    • Impressions range from stereotypic, category-based impressions to individuated impressions (dual processing)
what information do we use14
What Information Do We Use?
  • Dual Processing
    • We generally tend to use category-based inference because it is easy and quick
    • We use individuated information when
      • we are motivated to be accurate
      • the person doesn’t fit our categories
      • we have other reasons for wanting to know the person better
what information do we use15
What Information Do We Use?
  • Context Effects
    • Contrast biases judgments away from the context (sees them as different)
    • Assimilation biases judgments in the same direction as the context (sees them as similar)
what information do we use16
What Information Do We Use?
  • Context Effects
    • Assimilation occurs more when people are using category-based processing
    • Contrast occurs more when people are using individuated information
integrating impressions
Integrating Impressions
  • We move quickly from observations of appearance and behavior to inferences about personality
integrating impressions18
Integrating Impressions
  • Negativity Effect
      • Negative traits tend to affect impressions more than positive ones (especially negative moral traits)
  • Positivity Bias
      • Overall we tend to evaluate others positively
integrating impressions19
Integrating Impressions
  • We infer what others are like from what emotions they express
integrating impressions20
Integrating Impressions
  • The Averaging Principle
    • averaging is used to combine separate pieces of information about people, some of which are positive and others of which are negative
    • A weighted averaging model, in which traits are weighted by importance, provides the best predictions
integrating impressions21
Integrating Impressions
  • Our perceptions of others’ personal qualities undergoes a shift of meaning depending on context
integrating impressions22
Integrating Impressions
  • People tend to form evaluatively consistent impressions of others (halo effect)
integrating impressions23
Integrating Impressions
  • Resolving Inconsistencies
    • Information that is inconsistent with other impressions may be remembered especially well
    • However, being “cognitively busy” prevents us from thinking about inconsistent information so we forget it
    • We may differentiate incongruent information by context
    • Sometimes we just recognize incongruities without integrating them
integrating impressions24
Integrating Impressions
  • Schemas are organized, structured sets of cognitions including knowledge about the object, relationships among its attributes, and specific examples
integrating impressions25
Integrating Impressions
  • Schemas
      • Person schemas
      • Role schemas
      • Group schemas (stereotypes)
integrating impressions26
Integrating Impressions
  • Schemas
      • Prototypes are the abstract ideal of a schema
      • Exemplars are particular instances of a category
integrating impressions27
Integrating Impressions
  • Schemas
    • When we have little information about another, we use prototypes to make inferences about them
    • When we have a little more information, we use both exemplars and prototypes
    • When we have a great deal of information, we use more well-developed schemas as well as exemplars
motivated person perception
Motivated Person Perception
  • Our goals and feelings about other people influence the information we gather about them
motivated person perception29
Motivated Person Perception
  • Need for accuracy about another leads to more systematic processing
      • We remember more about another when we expect to interact with him or her
motivated person perception30
Motivated Person Perception
  • Communicating information about another leads to more evaluatively consistent impressions
motivated person perception31
Motivated Person Perception
  • When we are preoccupied we are more likely to make trait inferences
motivated person perception32
Motivated Person Perception
  • Factors influencing our reactions to others
    • Other’s similarity to self
    • Our prior experiences
    • Our prior expectations
    • Our beliefs about traits as stable or malleable
    • Our own emotional state or mood
attribution theory
Attribution Theory
  • Attribution theory is the area of psychology concerned with when and how people ask “why” questions.
    • Heider (1958) argued that we have needs to understand and to control the environment. These needs lead us to make attributions.
    • We are especially likely to make attributions when events are negative or unexpected.
attribution theory34
Attribution Theory
  • dispositional or internal attributions
    • Refer to traits, attitudes, enduring internal states


  • situational or external attributions
    • Refer to aspects of the external environment, including other people
attribution theory35
Attribution Theory
  • Correspondent Inference Theory (Jones and Davis [1965])
    • Assumes that we seek to make “correspondent inferences”
      • The behavior (e.g., rude) corresponds to an underlying characteristic of the person (rude)
    • We use information about the social context to see if we can make a correspondent inference
attribution theory36
Attribution Theory
  • We tend to make a correspondent inference when
    • A behavior is not socially desirable
    • A behavior is freely chosen
    • A behavior has a “noncommon effect”
    • A behavior is not part of a social role
attribution theory37
Attribution Theory
  • Noncommon Effects
    • A student is choosing between 3 colleges
    • You attribute their motive as the distinctive effect for that choice
attribution theory38
Attribution Theory
  • The Covariation Model (Kelley, 1967) says that people try to see if a particular cause and a particular effect go together across situations.
attribution theory39
Attribution Theory
  • Consistency
    • Is the person’s response consistent over time?
  • Consensus
    • Do other people have similar responses?
  • Distinctiveness
    • Does the person respond similarly to other similar stimuli?
attribution theory40
Attribution Theory

Why did Mary laugh at the comedian?

attribution theory41
Attribution Theory
  • The discounting principle suggests that we are less likely to attribute an effect to a particular cause if more than one cause is likely.
    • E.g., if a salesperson is nice to us, we don’t necessarily assume he or she is intrinsically friendly
attribution theory42
Attribution Theory
  • By and large, research findings show that people’s inferences do follow the patterns described by the covariation and discounting principles
attribution theory43
Attribution Theory
  • Biases in the Attribution Process
    • Considerable research suggests that there are several prominent biases in the ways we make causal attributions
attribution theory44
Attribution Theory
  • Fundamental Attribution Error
    • We are more likely to attribute others’ behavior to their dispositions than to the situation they are in
attribution theory45
Attribution Theory
  • The fundamental attribution error may occur because people make dispositional attributions automatically, and then only later use situational information to discount it.
    • People don’t tend to get to the second step unless the contextual information is very compelling or salient
attribution theory46
Attribution Theory
  • There are some cultural differences in attributions.
    • People in all cultures seem to share the correspondence bias (tendency to infer behaviors as due to dispositions)
    • But people in non-Western cultures are more likely to take situational and contextual information into account
attribution theory47
Attribution Theory
  • The Actor-Observer Bias is that we tend to attribute other people’s behavior to their dispositions but our own to situations (Jones & Nisbett, 1972)
    • Perceptual: actors look at the situation, observers look at actors
    • Access to different information: actors have more background about themselves
attribution theory48
Attribution Theory
  • False Consensus Effect
    • We tend to see our own behavior and opinions as typical. Why?
      • We have a biased sample of similar others among our friends
      • Our own opinions are more accessible/salient
      • We fail to realize that our choices reflect our construals and that others have different perceptions
      • We are motivated to see ourselves as normal & good.
attribution theory49
Attribution Theory
  • The Self-Serving Attributional Bias
    • We tend to take credit for our successes but deny blame for our failures
attribution theory50
Attribution Theory
  • The self-serving bias may actually be quite adaptive.
    • There is more evidence that people take credit for their successes than that they deny responsibility for failures. People may accept responsibility for failure especially if it is a factor they can control.
  • The self-serving bias is more likely in casual than in close relationships.
attribution theory51
Attribution Theory
  • Where do Biases Come From?
    • Cognitive shortcuts in service of efficiency
    • Needs and motives (biases to enhance self-esteem and perceptions of control)
accuracy of judgments
Accuracy of Judgments
  • Our judgments are both accurate and inaccurate.
    • We tend to be accurate about external visible attributes.
    • We are less accurate about inferred internal states (traits or feelings).
accuracy of judgments53
Accuracy of Judgments
  • Why are people’s personalities difficult to judge accurately?
    • Lack of objective criteria
    • People have idiosyncratic criteria for judging others
      • They agree more about likeability than about traits
    • Personality traits tend to predict behavior in only a limited set of circumstances
accuracy of judgments54
Accuracy of Judgments
  • People agree more about observable traits than about less observable ones
  • People agree more with the person’s self-perception if they know a person well
  • People are more accurate if the target’s behavior is not overly variable
  • People are more accurate if they are outcome dependent on the target
accuracy of judgments55
Accuracy of Judgments
  • We are fairly accurate in our perception of others’ emotional states
    • Facial expressions of emotions may be part of our evolutionary heritage
accuracy of judgments56
Accuracy of Judgments
  • Continuum of emotions
    • Happiness/Joy
    • Surprise, Amazement
    • Fear
    • Sadness
    • Anger
    • Disgust, Contempt
    • Interest, Attentiveness
  • We easily distinguish emotions that are at least three categories apart
accuracy of judgments57
Accuracy of Judgments
  • Two dimensions of emotion:
    • Pleasantness
    • Arousal
  • We easily distinguish pleasant from unpleasant emotions, and arousing emotions from non-arousing ones
    • The pleasantness dimension is easiest to distinguish
nonverbal communication
Nonverbal Communication
  • Even small amounts of nonverbal behavior can convey substantial information
  • Channels
    • Visible
      • Facial expressions, gestures, posture, appearance
    • Paralinguistic
      • Pitch, amplitude, rate, voice quality of speech
nonverbal communication59
Nonverbal Communication
  • The Visible Channel
    • Distance
      • Indicates friendliness
    • Gestures
      • Vary by culture
    • Eye Contact
      • Indicates interest (friendship or threat)
    • Facial Expressions
nonverbal communication60
Nonverbal Communication
  • Paralanguage
    • Paralanguage involves variations in speech other than verbal content
      • A simple statement can mean entirely different things depending on emphasis and inflection
nonverbal communication61
Nonverbal Communication
  • The more channels of communication people have access to, the more accurate they are in judging others’ emotions.
  • However, the verbal channel tends to be the most influential.
nonverbal communication62
Nonverbal Communication
  • Are people successful or unsuccessful liars?
    • True emotions tend to “leak” out through nonverbal channels
  • Some nonverbal channels leak more than others because they are less controllable
    • The body is more likely than the face to reveal deception
nonverbal communication63
Nonverbal Communication
  • People are more likely to perceive a deceptive message as less truthful, but on the whole, people are not wonderful lie-detectors
  • The Giveaways
    • Liars blink more, hesitate more, make more speech errors, speak in higher-pitched voices, and have more dilated pupils
nonverbal communication64
Nonverbal Communication
  • People use nonverbal behaviors to convey intended impressions
    • Display rules are cultural norms regarding how one conveys emotion to others
nonverbal communication65
Nonverbal Communication
  • There are gender differences in the use of nonverbal behavior.
    • Girls and women are more expressive in their display of most emotions and are more accurate interpreters of nonverbal cues
      • Women are better at communicating happiness; Men at communicating anger
      • Both nature and nurture seem to be involved.