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shishirsubba21@gmail com cognition process of understanding the world around us





Cognition is the scientific term for "the process of thought."

Cognition as a single word that means a group of mental processes which include processes like attention, sensation or awareness, perception, memory, remembering, reasoning, judgment, etc. for making decision.



Social cognition is the study of how people process social information, especially its encoding, storage, retrieval, and application to social situations. In other words, it means how people make sense of themselves and others.



It focuses on how people think about other people and how they think they think about others and themselves.

It is higher mental processes that are engaged while social situations or dealing with social information.

cognition and process of understanding the world

COGNITION and Process of Understanding the World

The outside world and both physical and social objects are the result of subjective construction of reality that involve both the physiological/neurological process as well as psychological processes.

social cognition
Social Cognition

Making social judgments is more difficult

  • Available information is incomplete, ambiguous, or downright contradictory.
  • The core question of social cognition research is “How people use all this information to arrive at a coherent judgment?
social cognition1

Social Cognition

Do we see the world, the people, the group, accurately and form it unbiased?

Is there error in social cognition”

Can we logically put the information in organized way?

There are logical and correct ways to put information together to make wise decision but we depart in quite predictable ways.

facts on our understanding
FACTS on our understanding

People are not always accurate in understanding people, explain their action and predict the future behavior. Other times, there is accuracy. Like Sherlock Holmes, people, with bit of information, elaborate and construct the profile of other people. Many times they are correct and many times they are not.

social cognition2
Social Cognition
  • Social cognition is often marked by apparent errors and biases
  • People's social inferences often depart in quite predictable ways from logic and accuracy
  • The information that is stored in the memory, the context, the situation and the people one come to contact helps to organize and make inferences about the social object
social cognition3

Social Cognition


Social inference is composed of several steps

Gathering information

Deciding what information to use (Biases)

Integrating the information

Making judgment of social stimulus

social cognition4

Prior provide structure and meaning of behavior but also lead to collect inaccurate information.

Using Prior expectation

Social Cognition

Making judgement of social stimulus or event

Failing to notice biases in information and usually the mood guide the memory

Deciding what information to use


Putting information together

Automatic evaluation, use short-cuts, self-serving process

social cognition5

Prior expectation

Faulty expectation:

Failure to recognize how prior expectations bias the collection of information

Overrule consideration of information altogether

Rejecting unsupporting (prior expectation) information

Using Prior expectation

Social Cognition


Deciding what information to use

Putting information together


Suppose: A college acquaintance of yours, a tense, serious, humorless fellow, works for the company you are considering and finds it very much to his liking.


Prior Expectations

  • Everyone in the company are stiff and uptight
  • Selective collection of information consistent with this prior expectation
  • Finding prospective coworkers a little rigid or formal when meeting them
  • Formality with stranger is quite normal in the first meeting however one may conclude with prior expectation as stiff and rigid
  • Prior expectations are very helpful in interpreting the information, provide structure and meaning however sometimes it causes to draw inaccurate inferences.

According to Nisbett & Ross (1980):

Four conditions are especially problematic

  • Faulty expectations: Letting false belief and expectation guide one’s collection of information will probably lead one to incorrect answers
  • Second condition under which prior expectations can be problematic occurs when the social perceiver fails to recognize how prior expectations bias the collection of information.
  • Overrule consideration of information altogether: Prior expectations can create problems when they overrule consideration of information altogether and consequently the decision.
  • Rejecting unsupporting (prior expectation) information: if information is inconsistent with what to believe, one will scrutinize it and collect only those that support the belief (Ditto, See pansky, Munro, Apanovitch, & Lockhart, 1998).
social cognition6

Using Prior expectation

Social Cognition

Small sample

Statistical Versus Case History Information

Impact of negative information

Deciding what information to use (Bias)


Putting information together

2 biases in the information
  • Collection of information for decision is must
  • Judgments made on the basis of limited information can distorted judgement – selected friendly sample and evalution
  • (Hamill, Wilson, & Nisbett, 1980), vidiotape viewing of an interview with a prison guard.
    • (1) Typical prison guard, (2) Very different from most of the guard, (3) no information was provided to the sample
    • Half the participants saw prison guard appeared a highly compassionate, concerned individual.
    • other half saw a tape that portrayed him as in inhumane, macho, cruel person.
    • Participants asked what kinds of people become prison guards. participants' inferences about prison guards were unaffected by whether they had been told that the prison guard was typical.

Small sample (Bias)

  • Inferences based on very little information are also problematic. A small sample of information can actually produce a very biased picture (Schaller, 1992).
    • Collecting informaiton from 2 workers who seem pleasant enough, and working with 20 coworkers, there is the possibility that these 2 are not typical of the larger group.
    • Sometimes people forget that they are dealing with very little information, and they make confident inferences nonetheless (Nisbett & Kunds, 1985).

Statistical Versus Case History Information (Bias)

  • Statistic information represent population while Case study only represent a few, very specific people
  • Statistical information is dull while case history is colorful and it often has more influence on their judgment (Tylor & Thompson, 1982).
  • Statistical information is objectively more accurate. E.g, a dynamic employee may reach to high post within short period – the history (bias) can influence the impress and ignore more appropriate statistical information
  • One generally rely on statistical information for persuasive argument and strong conclusion
  • When more engaging anecdotal case history evidence is present, people often ignore relevant statistical evidence and are instead persuaded by case histories (Beckett & Par, 1995).

Impact of negative information

  • If encountered one or two negative pieces of information during data collection – from disgruntled employee one would attach some significance to this observation, more than it was worth. This is a common finding in research on judgments and decisions.
  • Negative information attracts more attention than does positive information (Pratto & John, 1991). Consequently, negative information is weighted more heavily than are positive aspects when judgments are made (Coovert & Reeder, 1990).
  • In studies like forming impressions of others to evaluating positive and negative information to reach a decision/judgment, negative information figures more prominently (Taylor, 1991).
social cognition7

Judgments of Covariation : All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Illusory correlation

members of minority groups are often seen as having attributes stereotypically associated with their group because of their membership Impact of negative information

Using Prior expectation

Social Cognition

Deciding what information to use (Bias)


Putting information together

3 integrating information

Process of bringing information together and combining it into a social judgement

  • Standards for combining information into a judgment, computers typically outperform human decision makers (Dawes, Faust, & Meehl, 1989). Humans are swayed by stereotype that influence the information they collect

Judgments of Covariation

Many of our beliefs involve statements about the relationship between things - "Blonds have more fun" - implies not being Blond is having less fun. Technically, such idea of association is called JoC.

3 integrating information1

Illusory correlation

According to Klauer & Meiser (2000) several factors produce illusory correlation.

  • Meaning of two item is believed to go together, thus, a member of minority group is stereotypically perceived as having attributes of group.
social cognition8

Putting information together

Deciding what information to use

Gathering information

Social Cognition

Using Prior expectation

Prior expectation helps to provide structure and meaning of behavior but also lead to collect inaccurate information.

Information gathering will be selective and consistent with the prior expectation

It leads to collect the information what you want to collect (e.g., rigid, formal coworkers)

One believes what one wants to believe

It hinders the collection of neutral information

social cognition9

Putting information together

Deciding what information to use

Gathering information

Social Cognition

Using Prior expectation

Using mood to guide memory

Drawing on prior expectations and decide what is relevant

Failing to notice biases in information

Letting personal goals or motives influence information choice

Being swayed by case history information

Finding out what you want to find out (i.e., motivated inference)

Using too little information

Using the wrong information

Combining information erratically

social cognition10

Deciding what information to use

Impact of negative information: It attracts more attention than positive information and weighted more heavily.

Happy mood leads to positive inferences. Bad mood lead to short term gain but long term lose.

Mood-congruency memory – remember material that fits with current mood state

Negative mood make pessimistic estimate

Gathering information

Social Cognition

People tend to be bias in selecting information despite warned before.

Small sample: Based on few people’s version which does not represent the group.

Statistical information represents the larger view yet emotional, in-depth information draws our attention

Using Prior expectation

social cognition11

Putting information together

Deciding what information to use

Gathering information

Social Cognition

Using Prior expectation

Automatic evaluation - using shortcut

Self serving information –e..g, divorce rate and predictability






social cognition12

Social Cognition

Three approaches to study social cognition

Person Perception Approaches

Attribution Approaches

Schema Approaches

major approaches to social cognition

Major approaches to Social Cognition

Approach Major question Major guiding

addressed by perceiver principle used by perceiver

_______________ __________________ ______________

Person Perception How traits are combined Rational

to form an overall combining of

impression? Trait inform..

Attribution What are the causes of Naïve

behavior? Scientist


Schema How is the meaning of Cognitive

behavior and traits miser or

interpreted? Motivated


person perception1

Person Perception

Person perception approaches consider the ways we asses and combine the traits of other persons to form overall impression

An approach that consider the ways we assess and combine the traits of other persons to form overall impressions.

This perspective assumes:

“People are thoughtful and fairly rational perceiver of others, they notice others traits and put them together to make a consistent framework by which we can understand others...”

people assess and integrate others traits and characteristics to form an overall impression
People assess and integrate others' traits and characteristics to form an overall impression.
person perception facts

Person PerceptionFACTS

People form impressions of others quickly on the basis of minimal information and go on to impute (assign) general traits to them

People pay special attention to the most salient (prominent) features of a person, rather than pay attention to everything. We notice the qualities that make a person distinctive or unusual

We organize our perception by categorizing or grouping stimuli. Rather than see each person as a separate individual, we tend to see people as members of groups – the people wearing white lab coats are doctors, even though each may have features that make him or her quite different from other doctors.

person perception2

Person Perception

We tend to look at

Roles: role helps to know the traits. Roles are informative, rich, and well articulated, summarize the information

Physical cues: Appearance, behavior, qualities gives detail impression. Dressing shows characteristics of the person.

Salience: cues that opposes with others. Figure and Ground.

Traits: behavior is observe to find traits. Based on traits we develop implicit personality theory.

Central traits: a trait associated with person’s many other characteristics. E.g., warm.

Categorize: Social categorization e.g., gender, race, social class, influences perception and tend to make a part of some group or category.

person perception how we assess and combine the traits to form a impression of other people

Physical attractiveness, face configuration, Judge by clothing, eyeglasses, jewelry, etc. (large eyes, small nose is veiwed as powerlessness



Person Perception: How we assess and combine the traits to form a impression of other people?

Facial expression, basic emotions (happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, etc. no mask and leakage process), display rules of social interaction, body language




Cognitive data and organization of it – central trait that serve to organize the other descriptive pieces of data (Ash, 1950). Negative data is weighted more heavily than positive data





PRIMARY EFFECT (early information has a stronger impact than later information) and RECENCY EFFECT

how we assess and combine the traits to form a impression of other people
How we assess and combine the traits to form a impression of other people?



Appearance, Physical attributes, facial expression, etc


Central trait approach

Cognitive algebra approach

  • Primacy or Recency effect

Physical appearance

  • Non-verbal Behavior
  • Body Language



non verbal behavior


An action that displays inner feelings. People can accurately identify the facial expressions of basic emotions i.e., happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, fear (Feldman & Rime, 1991). Display is universal and can be identify them across culture.

Variation of display is found to exist:

non verbal behavior2


Display rules greatly facilitates social interaction though various factors may reduce the accuracy of interpretation of others non-verbal behavior

Despite a tendency to mask the true feeling, some indication is given called LEEKAGE. The voice, eye movement, smile, leave some marks of true feelings.

body language


Gesture and accompanying speech provides data that helps to build inferences about others (Rime & Schiaratura, 1991; Ricci, Bitti, & Poggi, 1991).

Unlike facial expression gesture cannot be identified accurately. A – OK means everything's great in North America, in many cultures it represents female sexual anatomy.In Greece, it is an indication of sexual proposition, if to male, it is insult to recipant'smasculinality.

cognitive math one and one does not always equal two

COGNITIVE MATH (One and one does not always equal two)

Appearance and non-verbal behaviors provides clues

How do we form an overall impression of others baed on the bits and pieces of cognitive data that we are able to collect?


Solomon Asch

Certain personal attributes (central traits) play an unusual role in determining a general impression (Asch, 1946; Asch & Zukier, 1984; Watkins & Peynircioglu, 1984)

Central traits are characteristics that serve to organize an impression of another person and provide a framework for other interpreting other information about that person.

a person who is warm industrious critical practical determined






a person who is cold industrious critical practical determined







Central trait altered the meaning of additional descriptive traits. Manu words took different meaning when it is preceded by 'warm' or 'cold'.



COGNITIVE ALGEBRAapproach disagreed with this notion.

Cognitive algebra approach is an explanation for impression formation that suggests that perceivers consider each individual trait; evaluate each trait individually, in isolation form the others; and then combine the evaluations into an overall judgment.


A person who appears adventurous and bold, but unintelligent. Positive traits adventurous and bold add final impression and the negative trait unintelligent subtracts from it. The value does not change as a result of the presence or absence of the others.

According to Kaplan (1975) impression of others are more accurate when we consider the importance of each piece of information.

Negative information is usually weighted more heavily than positive information. If equal percent of + and – information is provided more negative impression tend to exist.

Neither approach provided a complete account of information formation. Yet considerable amount of researches has been generated.

primacy effects first impression

PRIMACY EFFECTS (first impression)

Does Order effect?

Logically it should not matter but reality is different.

Asch (1946) found primacy effect

Intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, and envious

McKelvie (1990), Titus 1991 and so on also found that primacy effect in the influence that information has on the recipient.

Primacy effect occurs when early information has a stronger impact than latter information.

primacy effects


Jones & Goethals (1972) found primacy effect was also found that early information play dominant role in determining the ultimate evaluation.

School information – doing better initially in the class and declining or reverse?

Asch explanation: information received earlier influences our perception of the meaning of additional information.

Also conform that Cognitive algebra does not provide a complete account of social cognition.

social cognition attribution

Social Cognition: Attribution

Attribution is the process by which people attempt to identify the causes of others’ and their own behavior

Attribution theory is the principles that determine how causal attributions are made and what effects they have on our judgment of others.

social cognition attribution1

Social Cognition: Attribution

Over the course of semester, Kate has come to have great respect for her history professor (Dilton). Though Kate was not doing well in class she liked his outgoing, frank, and effective teaching style and thought it as provocative. At the end of the semester she met Prof. Dilton and told him she liked his class. Contrary to her expectation Prof. Dilton was cool and indifferent. She felt confused and wondered why she reacted the way he did.

social cognition13

Social Cognition

In seeking the explanation of one’s behavior people rely on two general categories of causes:

Situational causes: Reasons for behavior that rest on the demands or constraints of a given social setting. Most situation calls for certain kinds of behavior

Dispositional causes: Reasons for behavior that rest on the personality traits and characteristics of the individual carrying out the behavior.

social cognition14

Social Cognition


Situational causes: Social setting and classroom behavior – certain circumstances produces particular behavior.

Dispositional causes: Reasons of behavior rest on personality traits and characteristics individual carries – habitually friendly or hostile or energetic regardless of situation and circumstances.

Is Kate’s behavior a dispositional – no informatio

or situational (poor in study) – does not say negatives of Prof.

social cognition15

Social Cognition

Causes of behavior are attributed:

Situational: when external reasons are more likely or plausible than dispositional cause

Dispositional: When external causes are unlikely dispositional causes are attributed.


Politics: Voting according to whip is situational. Voting against is described as dispositional attribution. S/He is behaving contrary to external pressures.

biases in attribution

Biases in Attribution

Accurate account of a person behavior is very difficult to describe. Naive scientist is prone to biases.

Fundamental Attribution error: A tendency to overattribute others’ behavior to dispositional causes and the corresponding failure to recognize the importance of situational cause.

Because behavior is dynamic and environment is static

Tendency to rapidly evaluate others in terms of disposition.

two step model of attribution

Two step model of attribution

Behavior --- Analysis of dispositional causes --- Distraction/No distraction (lead to dispositional attribution) --- Analysis of situational causes --- Situational or Dispositional attribution.


Lead to dispositional attribution


  • No distraction
  • Distraction or no distraction
  • Analysis of situational causes
  • Situational or Dispositional Attribution
  • Analysis of dispositional causes
attribution biases

Attribution Biases

Person positivity biases: Blind optimism about others can lead to PPB. A friendly person just made is susceptible to be PPB from us. Prominent historical political figure are positively evaluated.

Motivational bias: Sources of error that stem form a need to present oneslef well, either to impress others or to maintain one’s self-esteem (e.g., student’s good marks in exam – failure?)

schema perspective organizing impressions

SCHEMA perspectiveOrganizing impressions

Schemas are the organized bodies of information stored in memory. It is a organized system or structure of cognitions about a person, group, place, or things.

Schema include knowledge about the concept or stimulus, relations among the various cognitions about it, and specific examples (Fiske and Taylor, 1991). It includes, roles, script, stereotype pics of a group, etc.



The primary way we simplify and organize impressions of others is through schemas. The information in a schema provides us with a representation of the way the social world operates, and it enables us to categorize and interpret new information related to the schema (Fiske and Taylor, 1991); Smith, 1998).

It helps to organize behavior into a meaningful whole.



All new information are perceived and organized into schema known as PROTOTYPE. Prototype is general not specific. It represents the typical or average example of a category.

e.g. what is the prototype of committed people?

Prototype has several level of specificity – prototype – subordinate level – middle level (general class) etc.

prototype example






Subordinate level (Leaders)

Middle level (Activists)

Others (Sympathizers?)

SCRIPT and ROLE of prototype and different level.

exercise analysis of

Exerciseanalysis of

Process of social inferences between/among group/individual in relation to political parties

Role of Cognitive/attribution biases in conflict between any two political group/leader