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6th edition. Social Psychology. Elliot Aronson University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy D. Wilson University of Virginia Robin M. Akert Wellesley College slides by Travis Langley Henderson State University. Chapter 3. Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World.

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Social Psychology


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    1. 6th edition Social Psychology Elliot Aronson University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy D. Wilson University of Virginia Robin M. Akert Wellesley College slides by Travis Langley Henderson State University

    2. Chapter 3 Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World “The greatest of all faults, I should say, is to become conscious of none.” –Thomas Carlyle

    3. Social Cognition Social Cognition How people think about themselves and the social world, or more specifically, how people select, interpret, remember, and use social information to make judgments and decisions. Source of images: Microsoft Office Online.

    4. Social Cognition • The study of social cognition is a central topic in social psychology. • The assumption is that people are generally trying to form accurate impressions of the world and do so much of the time. • Because of the nature of social thinking, however, people sometimes form erroneous impressions.

    5. 2 Kinds of Social Cognition • Quick and automatic “without thinking,” without consciously deliberately one’s own thoughts, perceptions, assumptions. • Controlled thinking that is effortful and deliberate, pausing to think about self and environment, carefully selecting the right course of action. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    6. ON AUTOMATIC PILOT: LOW-EFFORT THINKING • People often size up a new situation very quickly: they figure out who is there, what is happening, and what might happen next. • Often these quick conclusions are correct. • You can tell the difference between a college classroom and a frat party without having to think about it. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    7. Imagine a different approach: Every time you encounter a new situation you stop and think about it slowly and deliberately, like Rodin’s statue The Thinker . • Imagine driving down the road and stopping repeatedly to analyze every twist and turn. • Imagine meeting new person and excuse yourself for 15 minutes to analyze what you learned from them. • Sounds exhausting, right? Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    8. Automatic Thinking Thinking that is nonconscious, unintentional, involuntary, and effortless. We form impressions of people quickly and effortlessly and navigate new roads without much conscious analysis of what we are doing. We engage in an automatic analysis of our environments, based on past experiences and knowledge of the world. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    9. People as Everyday Theorists: Automatic Thinking with Schemas Schemas Mental structures people use to organize their knowledge about the social world around themes or subjects and that influence the information people notice, think about, and remember.

    10. People as Everyday Theorists: Automatic Thinking with Schemas The term schema encompasses our knowledge about many things: • Other people, • Ourselves, • Social roles (e.g., what a librarian or engineer is like), • Specific events (e.g., what usually happens when people eat a meal in a restaurant). In each case, our schemas contain our basic knowledge and impressions that we use to organize what we know about the social world and interpret new situations.

    11. Stereotypes about Race and Weapons  • When applied to members of a social group such as a fraternity or gender or race, schemas are commonly referred to as stereotypes. • Stereotypes can be applied rapidly and automatically when we encounter other people.

    12. Stereotypes about Race and Weapons • Payne and colleagues rapidly showed college students pairs of pictures. • Participants were told to pay attention to press one key if certain pictures showed a tool and another key if it was a gun, in only ½ second. • People were significantly more likely to misidentify a tool as a gun when it was preceded by a black face than when it was preceded by a white face. Source of images: Microsoft Office Online.

    13. Stereotypes about Race and Weapons • Another study involved awarding video game players points for shooting characters holding weapons but subtracted points for shooting characters holding tools. • Results showed they made the most errors, shooting an unarmed person, when a black person was not holding a gun. • When the men in the picture were white, participants made about the same number of errors whether the men were armed or unarmed. Source of images: Microsoft Office Online.

    14. The Function of Schemas:Why Do We Have Them? Schemas are typically very useful for helping us organize and make sense of the world and to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Schemas are particularly important when we encounter information that can be interpreted in a number of ways, because they help us reduce ambiguity. Students told that a speaker is warm will interpret his lecture more favorably even though people who were told he is a cold person do not receive his lecture as favorably, even though both groups hear the same lecture.

    15. Schemas as Memory Guides • Schemas also help people fill in the blanks when they are trying to remember things. • We don’t remember exactly as if our minds were cameras. • Instead, we remember some information that was there (particularly information our schemas lead us to pay attention to), and we remember other information that was never there but that we have unknowingly added.

    16. Schemas as Memory Guides Examples: • Ask people what is the most famous line of dialogue in the classic movie Casablanca, and they will probably say, “Play it again, Sam.” • Ask them what is the most famous line from the original Star Trek TV series, and they will probably say, “Beam me up, Scotty.” • Here is a piece of trivia that might surprise you: Both of these lines are reconstructions. The characters never said them.

    17. Schemas as Memory Guides Memory reconstructions tend to be consistent with one’s schemas. • People who read a story about a marriage proposal can later insert incorrect details that had not been in the story (e.g., future plans, roses) but were consistent with a marriage proposal schema. • The fact that people filled in the blanks in their memory with schema-consistent details suggests that schemas become stronger and more resistant to change over time.

    18. Which Schemas Are Applied? Accessibility and Priming   Accessibility The extent to which schemas and concepts are at the forefront of people’s minds and are therefore likely to be used when we are making judgments about the social world. Priming The process by which recent experiences increase the accessibility of a schema, trait, or concept.

    19. Which Schemas Are Applied? Accessibility Something can become accessible for three reasons: • Some schemas are chronically accessible due to past experience. This means that these schemas are constantly active and ready to use to interpret ambiguous situations.

    20. Which Schemas Are Applied? Accessibility Something can become accessible for three reasons: • Some schemas are chronically accessible due to past experience. • Something can become accessible because it is related to a current goal.

    21. Which Schemas Are Applied? Accessibility Something can become accessible for three reasons: • Some schemas are chronically accessible due to past experience. • Something can become accessible because it is related to a current goal. • Schemas can become temporarily accessible because of our recent experiences.

    22. Which Schemas Are Applied?Priming Suppose you read about a man named Donald whose actions are ambiguous, interpretable in either a positive or negative manner. • People who previously memorize words like adventurous tend to form positive impressions of him. • People primed with words like reckless and stubborn form negative impressions.

    23. Priming is a good example of automatic thinking because it occurs quickly, unintentionally, and unconsciously.

    24. The Persistence of Schemas After They Are Discredited   • Even though a judge may instruct the jurors to disregard inadmissible evidence, because of the way schemas work, the jurors’ beliefs can persist even after the evidence for them proves to be false. • Schemas can take on a life of their own, even after the evidence for them has been completely discredited.

    25. Making Our Schemas Come True: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy   Self-Fulfilling Prophecy The case whereby people • Have an expectation about what another person is like, which • influences how they act toward that person, which • causes that person to behave consistently with people’s original expectations, making the expectations come true.

    26. Making Our Schemas Come True: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy   Teachers led to believe particular students will bloom: • Create a warmer emotional climate for those students, giving them more personal attention, encouragement, and support, • Give “bloomers” more challenging material, • Give “bloomers” more and better feedback, • Give “bloomers” more opportunities to respond in class and give them longer to respond.

    27. Making Our Schemas Come True: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy   Teachers led to believe particular students will bloom: • create a warmer emotional climate for those students, giving them more personal attention, encouragement, and support • give “bloomers” more challenging material • give “bloomers” more and better feedback • give “bloomers” more opportunities to respond in class and give them longer to respond. Some Limits of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies  • People’s true nature can win out in social interaction. • Self-fulfilling prophecies are most likely to occur when people are distracted.

    28. Which Schemas Are Applied?Priming Priming is a good example of automatic thinking because it occurs quickly, unintentionally, and unconsciously.

    29. Cultural Determinants of Schemas   An important source of our schemas is the culture in which we grow up. In fact, schemas are an important way cultures exert their influence: by instilling mental structures that influence how we understand and interpret the world.

    30. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts • When deciding which job to accept, what car to buy, or whom to marry, we usually do not conduct a thorough search of every option (“OK, it’s time for me to get married; I think I’ll consult the Census Bureau’s lists of unmarried adults in my town and begin my interviews tomorrow”). Source of images: Microsoft Office Online.

    31. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts • When deciding which job to accept, what car to buy, or whom to marry, we usually do not conduct a thorough search of every option (“OK, it’s time for me to get married; I think I’ll consult the Census Bureau’s lists of unmarried adults in my town and begin my interviews tomorrow”). Mental shortcuts are efficient, however, and usually lead to good decisions in a reasonable amount of time. Source of images: Microsoft Office Online.

    32. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts What shortcuts do people use? • One way is to use schemas to understand new situations. • When making specific kinds of judgments and decisions, however, we do not always have a ready-made schema to apply. • At other times, there are too many schemas that could apply, and it is not clear which one to use. What do we do?

    33. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts Judgmental Heuristics Mental shortcuts people use to make judgments quickly and efficiently. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    34. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts Judgmental Heuristics Mental shortcuts people use to make judgments quickly and efficiently. • Heuristics do not guarantee that people will make accurate inferences about the world. • Sometimes heuristics are inadequate for the job at hand or are misapplied, leading to faulty judgments. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    35. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts Judgmental Heuristics Mental shortcuts people use to make judgments quickly and efficiently. • Heuristics do not guarantee that people will make accurate inferences about the world. • Sometimes heuristics are inadequate for the job at hand or are misapplied, leading to faulty judgments. As we discuss the mental strategies that sometimes lead to errors, however, keep in mind that people use heuristics for a reason: Most of the time, they are highly functional and serve us well.

    36. How Easily Does It Come to Mind? The Availability Heuristic   Availability Heuristic A mental rule of thumb whereby people base a judgment on the ease with which they can bring something to mind. The trouble with the availability heuristic is that sometimes what is easiest to remember is not typical of the overall picture, leading to faulty conclusions.

    37. How Easily Does It Come to Mind? The Availability Heuristic  • Example: When physicians are diagnosing diseases, it might seem straightforward for them to observe people’s symptoms and figure out what disease, if any, they have. • Sometimes, though, symptoms might be a sign of several different disorders. • Do doctors use the availability heuristic, whereby they are more likely to consider diagnoses that come to mind easily? • Several studies of medical diagnoses suggest that the answer is yes. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    38. How Easily Does It Come to Mind? The Availability Heuristic  Do people use the availability heuristic to make judgments about themselves? • To find out, researchers had people remember examples of their own past assertive behaviors. • People asked to think of six examples rated themselves as relatively assertive because it was easy to think of this many examples (“Hey, this is easy—I guess I’m a pretty assertive person”). • People asked to think of twelve examples rated themselves as relatively unassertive because it was difficult to think of this many examples (“Hmm, this is hard—I must not be a very assertive person”).

    39. How Easily Does It Come to Mind? The Availability Heuristic 

    40. How Similar Is A to B? The Representativeness Heuristic   Representativeness Heuristic A mental shortcut whereby people classify something according to how similar it is to a typical case. Base Rate Information Information about the frequency of members of different categories in the population.

    41. Taking Things at Face Value Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic “A mental shortcut whereby people use a number or value as a starting point and then adjust insufficiently from this anchor.” Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    42. Taking Things at Face Value Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic Suppose you’re a judge sentencing a felon after your friend had his 75th birthday. Without realizing why the number 75 came to your mind, you might think, “75 is too high. I’ll sentence this person to 60 years.” What if your granddaughter just had her 5th birthday? You might impose a lower sentence. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    43. Taking Things at Face Value Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic Suppose you’re a judge sentencing a felon after your friend had his 75th birthday. This is, in fact, the kind of thinking judges showed in a recent study. Without realizing why the number 75 came to your mind, you might think, “75 is too high. I’ll sentence this person to 60 years.” What if your granddaughter just had her 5th birthday? You might impose a lower sentence.

    44. Taking Things at Face Value Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic The problem with this is that completely arbitrary values can influence judgments. Tversky and Kahneman (1974), spun a wheel of fortune and asked people to consider whether the number that came up was higher or lower than the percentage of African nations in the United Nations. People gave a higher estimate when the wheel of fortune stopped on a high number than when it stopped on a low number. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    45. The Power of Unconscious Thinking • Part of the definition of automatic thinking is that it occurs unconsciously. • Although unconscious processes can sometimes lead to tragic errors, unconscious thinking is frequently critical to navigating our way through the world. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

    46. The Power of Unconscious Thinking • Have you ever been chatting with someone at a party and suddenly realized that someone across the room had mentioned your name? • The only way this could happen is if, while you were engrossed in conversation, you were unconsciously monitoring other conversations to see if something important came up (such as your name). • This so-called "cocktail party" effect has been demonstrated under controlled experimental conditions. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.