Chapter 3. Social Cognition: Understanding the Social World. Social Inference. Often the information available to us is incomplete, ambiguous, or contradictory. Social cognition focuses on the way we use this information to arrive at coherent judgments.
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Chapter 3 Social Cognition: Understanding the Social World
Social Inference • Often the information available to us is incomplete, ambiguous, or contradictory. • Social cognition focuses on the way we use this information to arrive at coherent judgments. • People’s inferences are often marked by systematic biases.
Social Inference • Any social inference involves several stages • gathering information • deciding what information to use • integrating the information
Social Inference • While prior expectations can provide structure and meaning for information that would otherwise be hard to interpret, they also can lead people to draw inaccurate inferences
Social Inference • Conditions under which prior expectations lead to faulty inferences • (a) the expectations are faulty. • (b) the perceiver decides not to gather further information on the basis of initial information. • (c) the perceiver fails to recognize how these expectations influence information-gathering. • (d) the perceiver scrutinizes information that is inconsistent with what they want to believe more thoroughly than information that supports what they believe.
Social Inference • Biases in the information collected can lead to distortions in subsequent inferences even when people are aware that the information collected is atypical. • Small Sample • Statistical versus Case History Information
Social Inference • Negative information attracts more attention than positive and is weighted more heavily in judgments.
Social Inference • When there are clear standards for making judgments, computers typically outperform human decision makers • Computers apply the formula consistently, while humans are influenced by stereotypes or pet theories.
Social Inference • Illusory Correlations • Beliefs about the associations between categories and their attributes (e.g., “Blondes have more fun”) • They can occur based on prior expectations and associations of meaning • They also occur on the basis of paired distinctiveness (when two items are thought to go together because they are both unusual).
Social Inference • Framing Effects • The terms in which decision alternatives are cast may strongly affect people’s judgments. • For example, people become very cautious when alternatives are presented in terms of risks, but much less so when they are presented in terms of gains.
Emotion and Inference • Mood and Inference • Moods can affect our behavior, memory, judgments, and reactions to feedback. • Good moods have stronger effects on all of these outcome variables than bad moods. • Negative moods have more variable effects because they can lead people either to respond consistently with them or to try to escape them.
Emotion and Inference • Automatic Evaluations • Many social cognition processes occur virtually automatically and without awareness.
Emotion and Inference • Bargh et al. (1996) primed stereotypes about the aged via a word-find puzzle • Those primed with this stereotype subsequently walked more slowly.
Emotion and Inference • Evaluation is one of the most rapid and fundamental judgments we make. • It guides our processing of subsequent information and leads to the behavioral tendencies of approach or avoidance.
Emotion and Inference • Goals also influence behavior automatically. • Habits can be thought of as goal-dependent automatic behavior acts.
Emotion and Inference • The fact that many of our emotions, thoughts, and actions occur as automatic responses helps to explain how humans accomplish the vast amount of information processing we do so effortlessly.
Emotion and Inference • Motivation and Inference • People often evaluate information in a self-serving manner, or in a manner that reflects what they would like to believe.
Emotion and Inference • When we are motivated to be especially careful, people may be more accurate when making easy judgments but less accurate when making difficult judgments (Pelham & Neter, 1995).
Emotion and Inference • People who consider themselves knowledgeable gather less information and thus make poorer decisions (Rajecki & Jaccard, 1995).
Emotion and Inference • Suppressing Thought and Emotion • Suppressing thoughts and emotions is difficult and may actually produce a rebound effect. • This rebound effect occurs because we automatically monitor the environment for cues we might have to suppress. • The effort to suppress thoughts and emotions leads to physiological arousal and may even have negative effects on the immune system.
Emotion and Inference • Affective Forecasting • People tend to see their emotional responses to events as more long-lasting than they turn out to be • Why? They fail to realize how their thoughts and feelings will be influenced by other intervening events.
Inference: A Summing Up • How do people manage their social lives as well as they do if their judgments are biased? • The conditions that maximize accuracy of judgment rarely occur in daily life • It is often more important for people to be efficient than to be 100% accurate • However, as we have seen, this can lead to errors. Training people in reasoning can lead people to make better inferences.
Schemas • A schema is an organized, structured set of cognitions about a concept. • Schemas can be about particular people, social roles, groups, or common events. • Event schemas are known as scripts.
Schemas • Organization of Schemas • Hierarchical • abstract and general elements at a higher level • sub-categories with particular exemplars at lower levels. • The associations within a schema may represent more of a tangled web than a hierarchy.
Schemas • Advantages of Schematic Processing • Schemas Aid Information Processing • Schemas Aid Recall • Schemas Speed Up Processing • Schemas Aid Automatic Inference • Schemas Add Information • Schemas Aid Interpretation • Schemas Provide Expectations • Schemas Contain Affect
Schemas • Liabilities of Schematic Processing • People are overly accepting of information that fits a schema, • People fill in gaps with information that does not belong but is schema-consistent • People may ignore information which does belong but is schema-inconsistent • People may apply schemas even when they do not fit very well • People are often unwilling to change schemas.
Heuristics • Heuristics, or short-cut cognitive strategies and rules of thumb, help us select an appropriate schema to use for processing.
Heuristics • The Representativeness Heuristic • The representativeness heuristic selects a schema based on the similarity between the stimulus and the schema. • This can be problematic when the base-rate of members of the category is low.
Heuristics • The Conjunction Error • The conjunction error can lead us to believe that a combination of events is more likely than only one of the events separately.
Heuristics • The Availability Heuristic • The availability heuristic selects information based on how easily examples come to mind. • While this often produces correct answers, biasing factors can increase or decrease the availability of information without altering its actual frequency.
Heuristics • The Simulation Heuristic • The simulation heuristic involves using the ease with which particular endings to scenarios come to mind to judge what is likely to happen. • It is used to make predictions, infer causality, and determine affective responses such as regret.
Heuristics • Counterfactual Reasoning • Counterfactual reasoning involves imagining alternative outcomes. • Most likely when people experience unexpected or negative events. • “Downhill” changes more easily imagined than “uphill” changes • People engage in counterfactual reasoning to make themselves feel better, and to help prepare themselves for the future.
Heuristics • Mental Simulation • Pham and Taylor (1999) found that using simulations to imagine how goals can be achieved is more effective than merely fantasizing that the outcome has occurred • Pure wishful thinking can in fact be detrimental to goal attainment.
Heuristics • The Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic • The anchoring and adjustment heuristic selects a reference value to make an estimate and then revises it upwards or downwards to reach a conclusion. • A common anchor used in social perception is the self.
WhichSchemas Are Used? • Natural Contours • Salience • Primacy • Priming • Importance • determines use of schemas versus more systematic processing • Individual Differences • Goals
When Are Schemas Used? • Dual Processing of Information • People have at least two quite different ways they can form inferences • a rapid, relatively effortless heuristic mode based on schemas • a more cognitively demanding systematic mode that draws on more of the evidence in the situation.
When Are Schemas Used? • Outcome Dependence • When your outcomes depend on someone else’s actions, you pay more attention to the other person and to schema-inconsistent information. • Accountability • Accountability and/or the need to be accurate also leads people to pay more attention to the data and less to their schemas. • Time Pressure • Time pressure, conversely, leads people to be more likely to use schemas.
Schemas in Action • Confirmatory Hypothesis Testing • Selectively seeking information that supports one’s beliefs is known as confirmatory hypothesis testing.
Schemas in Action • Snyder and Swann (1978) asked half their participants to find out if the other person they were interviewing was an introvert, and the other half to find out if s/he was an extrovert. • People tended to select questions from a provided list that confirmed the hypothesis they were testing.
Schemas in Action • Holding an opposite hypothesis or having a need for valid information reduces the degree to which people selectively confirm hypotheses.
Schemas in Action • Self-Fulfilling Prophecies • A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when a perceiver’s false expectations about another lead that person to adopt those expected attributes and behaviors.
Schemas in Action • Snyder, Tanke, and Berscheid (1977) gave male students a photograph of either an attractive or unattractive woman who they ostensibly were talking with over the phone. • Men who believed they were talking to a more attractive woman behaved more warmly • The woman in turn seemed more sociable, friendly, and likeable.
Schemas in Action • When Expectations Challenge Self-Conceptions • People may be motivated to disconfirm what they believe are others’ misconceptions of them. • When the target is certain of their self-concept, research suggests that the target’s self-conception will prevail over the perceiver’s misconception. • However, when the target is uncertain, the perceiver’s misconception will tend to prevail.