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Perceiving Persons. Social Psychology Chapter 4 September 10, 2004 Class #3. Tom Farsides: 08/10/03. Perceiving Persons. Social Perception. The process by which people come to understand one another… We’ll look at: The “raw data” of social perception How we explain and analyze behavior

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perceiving persons

Perceiving Persons

Social Psychology

Chapter 4

September 10, 2004

Class #3

social perception
Social Perception
  • The process by which people come to understand one another…
  • We’ll look at:
    • The “raw data” of social perception
    • How we explain and analyze behavior
    • How we integrate our observations into coherent impressions of other persons
    • How our impressions can subtly create a distorted picture of reality
observation the elements of social perception
Observation:The Elements of Social Perception

True or False?

The impressions we form of others are influenced by superficial aspects of their appearance

the elements of social perception the person
The Elements of Social Perception: The Person
  • First impressions are often subtly influenced by different aspects of a person’s appearance
  • We prejudge people based on facial features
    • We read traits from faces, as well as read traits into faces, based on prior information.
    • We judge “baby-faced” adults differently than “mature-faced” adults
why do we judge baby faced adults differently
Why Do We Judge “Baby-Faced” Adults Differently?
  • Three possible explanations:
    • Humans are genetically programmed to respond gently to infantile features
    • We learn to associate infantile features with helplessness and then generalize this expectation to baby-faced adults
    • There is an actual link between physical appearance and behavior
the elements of social perception the situation
The Elements of Social Perception: The Situation
  • We often have “scripts” or preset notions about certain types of situations
    • Enables us to anticipate the goals, behaviors, and outcomes likely to occur in a particular setting
  • These scripts help us understand other people’s verbal and nonverbal behavior
how do scripts influence social perception
How Do Scripts Influence Social Perception?
  • We sometimes see what we expect to see in a particular situation
  • People use what they know about social situations to explain the causes of human behavior
attribution theories
Attribution Theories
  • Attribution theory describes the process by which we make attributions
  • Heider: Explanations can be grouped into two categories:
    • Personal Attributions
    • Situational Attributions
jones s correspondent inference theory
Jones’s Correspondent Inference Theory
  • People try to infer from an action whether the act itself corresponds to an enduring personal characteristic of the actor
  • People make inferences on the basis of three factors:
    • Person’s degree of choice
    • Expectedness of the behavior
    • Intended effects or consequences of someone’s behavior
kelley s covariation theory
Kelley’s Covariation Theory
  • Covariation principle: for something to be considered the cause of a behavior, it must be present when the behavior is present and absent when the behavior is absent
  • People make attributions using the covariation principle.
  • Three kinds of covariation are useful:
    • Consensus: How are other people reacting to the same stimulus?
    • Distinctiveness: Is the person’s behavior consistent over time?
    • Consistency: Does the person react the same or differently to different stimuli?
conserving mental effort
Conserving Mental Effort
  • The social world is fast-paced…we are forced to make quick effective decisions even when we don’t have the time to use effortful conscious thinking processes
  • Do we really analyze behavior in a rational, logical manner?
  • Do we really have the time, motivation, or cognitive capacity for such elaborate and mindful processes?
  • The answer?
    • Sometimes yes…Sometimes no.
  • Often, what we do instead is develop cognitive strategies which give “good enough” judgments with little mental effort
cognitive heuristics
Cognitive Heuristics
  • Cognitive heuristics are information-processing rules of thumb
    • Enable us to think in ways that are quick and easy
  • Problem is that using cognitive heuristics can frequently lead to error
expectation confirmation strategies
Expectation Confirmation Strategies
  • We pay attention to behaviors relevant to our expectations
  • We interpret ambiguous events/behaviors in ways that support our expectations
  • We remember people and events consistent with our expectations
kelley 1950
Kelley (1950)
  • Harold Kelley, a psychology professor once arranged for a guest lecturer to teach his class…
    • Half the students in the class were given a page of notes that described the lecturer as a "rather cold person, industrious, critical, practical, and determined"
    • The other students got notes describing him as a "rather warm person, industrious, critical, practical, and determined"
kelley 195017
Kelley (1950)
  • Students who received the "cold" description perceived the lecturer as unhappy and irritable and didn’t volunteer in class discussion
  • Those who got the "warm" description saw the lecturer as happy and good-natured, and they actively took part in discussion with him
  • Why didn’t they wait to form there own opinion…our expectations often lead us to errors in judgment
dispositional inferences
Dispositional Inferences
  • This is the belief that a person’s behavior was caused by his or her personality because it is natural for people to try to simplify things (conserve mental effort)
    • So when we see someone do something… we initially blame it on their personality
      • Is this true???
fundamental attribution error
Fundamental Attribution Error
  • I mentioned this first class with my “subway conductor” example when we “over-estimate someone’s personality…
  • Studies have shown that even when people know the person is acting (for example: playing the part of a “arrogant jerk” they still hold negative views about this person
sometimes even when we know its not we still think it is
Sometimes even when we know its not…we still think it is…
  • Napolitan and Goethals (1979)
    • College students
      • Group 1
        • Told that woman’s behavior would be spontaneous
      • Group 2
        • Told that woman would pretend to be friendly or unfriendly so don’t take it personally
when asked later
When asked later…
  • Okay, you would think that the people who were told that she was acting would not consider her to be warm or mean…
i am not spock
I am not Spock…
  • Leonard Nimoy had to write a book…
    • Probably didn’t help him much
    • Its like when I met “Adam Chandler”
  • Even when told that behavior is due to situation, people still attribute it to disposition…
    • Why???
actor observer difference
Actor-Observer Difference
  • The tendency for individuals to judge their own behaviors as caused by situational forces but the behavior of another as caused by his or her personality
self serving bias
Self-Serving Bias
  • The tendency to take credit for our successes and to blame external factors for our failures…
    • If you get a great grade on your first exam in this class, why will that be?
      • Because you’re smart?
      • Because you studied hard?
    • What if you get a lousy grade?
      • Will that be because the exam was too hard?
      • Because I’m a lousy teacher?
dunning 2001
Dunning (2001)
  • The need for self-esteem biases social perceptions in subtle ways
  • Belief in a Just World: The belief that individuals get what they deserve in life
    • Can lead to a tendency to disparage victims
integration from dispositions to impressions
Integration: From Dispositions to Impressions
  • Information Integration: The Arithmetic
    • How do we combine personal attributions into a single coherent picture of the person?
      • Summation model or averaging model?
    • Information Integration Theory: Impressions formed of others are based on:
      • Personal dispositions of the perceiver; and
      • A weighted average of a target person’s traits
perceiver characteristics
Perceiver Characteristics
  • We differ in the kinds of impressions we form of others
  • Our current, temporary mood can influence the impressions we form of others
  • To some extent, impression formation is in the eye of the beholder
priming effects
Priming Effects
  • The tendency for recently used words to come to mind easily and influence the interpretation of new information
    • Priming can influence person impressions
  • Motivations, as well as social behaviors, can be influenced by priming
target characteristics
Target Characteristics
  • All traits are not created equal
  • The valence of a trait affects its impact on our impressions
    • Trait Negativity Bias
implicit personality theories
Implicit Personality Theories
  • Implicit Personality Theory: A network of assumptions that we make about the relationships among traits and behaviors
  • Central Traits: Traits that exert a powerful influence on overall impressions
    • e.g., Warm and cold vs. polite and blunt
asch 1946
One group read this description…

Intelligent

Industrious

Impulsive

Critical

Stubborn

Envious

Other group read this description:

Envious

Stubborn

Critical

Impulsive

Industrious

Intelligent

Asch (1946)

Rated This Person More Positively

the primacy effect
The Primacy Effect
  • The tendency for information presented early in a sequence to have more impact on impressions than information presented later
  • What accounts for this primacy effect?
    • There are two basic explanations
primacy effect explanation 1
Primacy Effect: Explanation #1
  • Once we think we have formed an accurate impression of someone, we pay less attention to subsequent information
  • People differ in their need for closure
    • Desire to reduce ambiguity
    • Primacy effect less likely to occur for those who are lower in their need for closure
primacy effect explanation 2
Primacy Effect: Explanation #2
  • Change of Meaning Hypothesis
    • Once we have formed an impression, we start to interpret inconsistent information in light of that impression
    • The meaning of a trait can be malleable
confirmation biases
Confirmation Biases

True or False?

People are slow to change their first impressions on the basis of new information.

confirmation bias
Confirmation Bias
  • Once we make up our mind about something, how likely are we to change it, even when confronted with new evidence?
  • Confirmation Bias: Our tendency to seek, interpret, and create information that verifies existing beliefs
perseverance of beliefs
Perseverance of Beliefs
  • We interpret ambiguous events in ways that confirm our existing beliefs
  • Belief Perseverance: The tendency to maintain beliefs even after they have been discredited
    • Can be reduced or eliminated when we are asked to consider why alternative explanations may be true
confirmatory hypothesis testing
Confirmatory Hypothesis Testing
  • Do we seek information objectively or are we inclined to confirm the suspicions we already hold?
  • Situational circumstances can influence our tendency to engage in confirmatory hypothesis testing
the self fulfilling prophecy
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

True or False?

The notion that we can create a “self-fulfilling prophecy” by getting others to behave in ways we expect is a myth.

the self fulfilling prophecy42
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • When an initially inaccurate expectation leads to actions that cause the expectation to come true
    • Example: Oh, I hate those company picnics…no one pays any attention to me…
the self fulfilling prophecy43
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • The process by which one’s expectations about a person eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm those expectations
  • Rosenthal & Jacobson’s (1968) “Pygmalion in the Classroom” study
are teachers and children susceptible to the self fulfilling prophecy
Are teachers and children susceptible to the self-fulfilling prophecy?
  • Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968)
    • 18 classrooms at the school – three for each of six grade levels
    • Each grade level was composed of students with varying abilities
    • Approximately 20% of these students were chosen at random to form the experimental group
rosenthal and jacobson 1968
Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968)
  • The teachers of these students were told that scores from “The Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition“ indicated that they were “academic spurters” and that they would show surprising gains during the next eight months of school
  • In reality, the only difference between the 20% selected for the experimental group and the remaining 80% of the students was in the minds of the teachers
  • What do you think happened during the next eight months???
the self fulfilling prophecy46
The self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Sex difference
    • Seems that men are likely to create these
    • Women are more likely to be the victims of self-fulfilling prophecies
  • Does this make sense???
social perception the bottom line
Social Perception: The Bottom Line

True or False?

People are more accurate at judging the personalities of friends and acquaintances than of strangers.

how accurate are people s impressions of each other
How Accurate Are People’s Impressions of Each Other?
  • Hard question to answer…
    • Problems:
      • Often exhibit biases in our social perceptions.
      • Often have little awareness of our limitations, leading us to feel overconfident in our judgments
    • But remember that biases do NOT necessarily result in error…
reasons why we can be competent social perceivers
Reasons Why We Can Be Competent Social Perceivers
  • The more experience we have with each other, the more accurate we are
  • Although not good at making global judgments of others, we are able to make more circumscribed predictions
  • Our social perception skills can be enhanced.
  • We can form more accurate impressions of others when we are motivated
  • Note: Slide 2 of this presentation prepared byhttp://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/ssfd0/l3.ppt