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Chapter Eleven. The Social Approach: Mind as Society. Social Cognition. Social cognition is the study of how people make sense of other people and of themselves. There are four assumptions (Fiske & Taylor, 2008): People use mental representations and processes.

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chapter eleven

Chapter Eleven

The Social Approach: Mind as Society

social cognition
Social Cognition
  • Social cognition is the study of how people make sense of other people and of themselves.
  • There are four assumptions (Fiske & Taylor, 2008):
    • People use mental representations and processes.
    • How they develop, operate and change over time.
    • An interdisciplinary approach.
    • Applicability to the real world.
evolution and social cognition
Evolution and Social Cognition
  • The cultural intelligence hypothesis. Social interaction led to the development of intelligence.
  • The general intelligence hypothesis. Intelligence developed in a general way to solve all kinds of problems.
  • Herrmann et. al. (2009) tested young human children and primates on physical (non-social) and social problems. The children scored on social problems, supporting the cultural intelligence hypothesis.
  • Also, there is a positive correlation between relative size of the neocortex and social factors like group size and grooming clique size (Dunbar, 2003).
attention and social cognition
Attention and Social Cognition
  • Joint attention is the ability to focus attention where somebody else is focusing.There are two forms:
  • In responding to joint attention (RJA) we follow the gestures and gaze direction. This is more passive.
  • In initiating joint attention (IJA) we use gestures and eye movements to direct attention to people, objects, and events. This is more active.
  • Autistic children and chimpanzees have RJA but not IJA.
joint attention
Joint Attention
  • There are two neural systems that underlie joint attention (Mundy, Card & Fox, 2000):
  • The posterior orienting and perceptual system consists of the parietal and superior temporal cortex. It is involuntary and directs our gaze to biologically meaningful stimuli.
  • The anterior attention system consists of frontal brain areas including the orbital frontal cortex, prefrontal association cortex and anterior cingulate. It is voluntary and mediates goal-directed attention.

Posterior and Anterior Attention Systems

Underlying Joint Attention.

social cognitive neuroscience
Social Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Are there specific parts of the brain that are used only in thinking about people?
  • Researchers have found mPFC activation for social tasks only (Fletcher et. al., 1995).
  • But there is also functional overlap between social and non-social brain areas. The right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) activates only for some kinds of social thinking, not others (Saxe & Kanwisher, 2003).
  • Mitchell (2008) found resting metabolic rate of social areas high, suggesting a default “people mode” way of thinking. We may need to shut off these areas when reasoning non-socially.
mirror neurons
Mirror Neurons
  • A mirror neuron fires when an animal performs some action and also when watching another animal perform the same action. So we would see activity when monkey A grasps an object, but also activity when monkey A sees monkey B grasp an object.
  • These cells probably play a role in observational learning, learning by copying other’s actions. Also used in behavioral intent, trying to figure out what others are doing.
  • Have not been identified in people but in macaque monkeys are located in the inferior frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobe.
mirror neurons1
Mirror Neurons
  • They may also be involved in our experience of empathy. Imaging studies with human patients show activity in brain areas that feel pain and when watching a video of somebody else about to experience pain (Decety & Jackson, 2004). Watching somebody else about to cut themselves with a kitchen knife can hurt us!
  • These studies show global activity, not individual neuron activity as single cell recording cannot usually be done with human subjects.
theory of mind
Theory of Mind
  • A theory of mind (ToM) is the ability to understand other’s mental states and to use them to guide our actions when dealing with others.
  • Children have been found to acquire a ToM by the age of 4-5 years.
  • This has been discovered with tests like the Sally-Ann task.
  • A developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and accompanied by restrictive and repetitive behavior. Language deficits also present.
  • Symptoms persist throughout life but vary in their severity. Males more than three times as likely to have it.
  • Currently, there is no “cure” but there is compensatory cognitive and behavioral training.
  • There is a genetic basis. Environmental causes have also been proposed and include heavy metals and pesticides.
autism and theory of mind
Autism and Theory of Mind
  • Autistics are “mind blind”, they have a limited or no ToM. They do not show a fully developed RJA or IJA. Preschool autistic children do not prefer facial to other visual stimuli or speech to other auditory stimuli.
  • Adult autistic individuals do not show mPFC activation in a mentalizing task (Happe et. al., 1996).
  • High functioning autistics have less gray matter in some brain areas but more in others (Abell et. al., 1999).
other social cognitive disorders
Other Social Cognitive Disorders
  • William’s syndrome is a genetic disease. Patients manifest hypersociability, an exaggerated interest in other people, increased expressiveness and social communicability. However, they also have limited spatial skills, motor control and suffer from mental retardation along with other physical defects.
  • Social phobia is characterized by a fear of public places, social interaction, and of being evaluated negatively by others.
  • A learned predispostion to respond to a particular object, person, or idea in a particular way.
  • They have three components: thoughts, feelings and actions.
  • Example: Your negative attitude toward your roommate. You may think that he is inconsiderate, feel angry and tell him to turn down his music.
cognitive dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance
  • Results from an inconsistency between our attitudes and our behavior. If we think we are a good student and fail an exam, then we feel bad and undergo a heightened state of arousal.
  • How do we reduce it? Making up an excuse, trivializing the incident, or compensating for it by doing better in another area.
  • Attitudes affect our perception, attention, interpretation, learning, and memory.
attitudes and neuroscience
Attitudes and Neuroscience
  • Cacioppo, Crites, and Gardner (1996) did ERP recordings on people asked to make evaluative and non-evaluative judgments.
  • An evaluative judgment is one involving good or bad, i.e., whether you like one baseball team more than another. A non-evaluative judgment is neutral. It would involve categorizing whether a word is a noun or verb.
  • They found right hemisphere activation for evaluative categorizations and activity in both hemispheres for non-evaluative ones.
  • The results suggest a fast automatic process that “kicks” in quickly to assess whether something is a threat for evaluative decisions and a slower more deliberative process for judging making neutral decisions.
  • An opinion or belief that you form about another person.
  • Early impressions are very powerful. In one study participants were able to judge accurately what teachers thought about students after watching a 10 second video clip of the two interacting.
  • Several factors influence our impressions. Physically attractive people are judged more positively but not to have greater integrity, modesty, or concern for others.
  • According to the halo effect, we see positive traits go together. If someone is attractive, we also think they are intelligent, wealthy, etc.
  • People who talk in a clear and direct manner are judged better than those who use filler words such as “like” and “you know”.
  • We like people who self-disclose but not too much (Colins & Miller, 1994).
  • An explanation we give for the causes of events or behaviors (Forsterling, 1998).
  • An internal attribution explains a person’s actions in terms of their personality. This person is tail-gating me because he is aggressive or hurried.
  • An external attribution explains a person’s behavior in terms of environmental causes. This person is tail-gating me because someone is tail-gating him.
factors affecting attribution
Factors Affecting Attribution
  • According to the fundamental attribution error, we have a tendency to make internal attributions.
  • In the self-serving bias, we tend to explain our own failures as due to external causes but other people’s failures to internal ones.
  • By the belief in a just world phenomenon we think that people get what they deserve. A street beggar got that way because he is an alcoholic. A rich person got that way because he is smart and works hard. The end explains the cause.
attribution and neuroscience
Attribution and Neuroscience
  • Rillings et. al., (2004) found different brain areas involved in thinking about abstract situations involving people (like a scenario or story) and for real world people scenarios (like a game with people who are physically present).
  • The anterior paracingulate cortex (pACC) and the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) were used for the real world situation. There was less activation in these areas for they hypothetical situation.
  • A stereotype is a type of schema, an organized body of knowledge we use to help us deal with some object, person, or situation.
  • Stereotypes are those schemas that are specifically about people. They can be defined by any category like skin color, sex, or religion and they can be positive, negative, or neutral.
stereotypes and cognitive processes
Stereotypes and Cognitive Processes
  • Stereotypes help us to organize and understand other people (Kulik, 2005). However, we can oversimplify and be wrong.
  • We prefer information that is consistent with our stereotypes and process that information more quickly. Hugenberg and Bodenhausen (2004) found that tend to forget or ignore information that does not fit our stereotypes.
ingroups and outgroups
Ingroups and Outgroups
  • We classify ourselves as part of a preferred group of people called the ingroup and others as part of a less preferred group called the outgroup.
  • We perceive more diversity among our ingroupand more similarity between individuals in the outgroup. This later phenomenon is called the outgroup homogeneity effect.
  • Those in the ingroup are also thought of as being more attractive, having better personalities and more socially acceptable, what is known as ingroup favoritism.
automatic stereotyping
Automatic Stereotyping
  • We can very quickly associate certain traits or values with particular groups.
  • In the implicit association task, a word appears in the center of a computer screen. There are two other words to the left and right of this. You are to press one of two buttons to indicate which of these two words goes along best with the central word.
  • For instance the central word may be “salary”, with the word “woman”to the left and the word “man” to the right. Most people in this condition push the right button because they believe that historically the two go together.
stereotyping and neuroscience
Stereotyping and Neuroscience
  • Hart et. al. (2000) had whites and blacks view unfamiliar white and black faces and asked the to identify their gender.
  • Early on there was amygdala activation for both groups viewing both races, since any of them could be a potential threat.
  • With later viewing there was reduced amygdala activity, but only for ingroup judgments. This was true for blacks and whites. Apparently we get used to seeing members of our own ingroup and are less likely to judge them as a threat.
  • A “prejudgment”, a decision or opinion we have made about someone or some group. They consist of thoughts, emotions, and predispositions to act (Myers, 2001).
  • Someone may believe that immigrants are violent, be fearful that they might steal, and be unwilling to adopt one as a friend.
  • Research shows that prejudices are both conscious and unconscious. If unconscious, they may be difficult to change.
interdisciplinary crossroads game theory
Interdisciplinary Crossroads: Game Theory
  • The field of game theory looks at situations where an individual’s success in making choices depends on other’s choices.
  • The situations themselves are referred to as social dilemmas.
  • One of the best known social dilemmas is called the prisoner’s dilemma.
game theory
Game Theory
  • The most frequent outcome is that both defect and end up serving four years.
  • This is a shame, since if both cooperated, it would have been only one year each.
  • In the real world, people usually cooperate. Why? Because we have to deal with people in the future and if you “screw” them, they will retaliate and “screw” you.
  • In iterated versions of the prisoner’s dilemma a strategy of “tit for tat” develops where people do whatever their opponent did to them in the previous round.