1. The order in which information is received
2. The association and independence of characteristics or attributes (e.g., traits)
Some early work by Asch:
Look at List A: This person is
Using this list, Asch found that it produces an impression of an able person who possesses certain shortcomings, which are not serious enough to overshadow person's merits.
Look at List B. This person is:
Using this list, Asch found that it produces an impression of a person who is a problem and whose abilities are hampered by his serious difficulties
Guess what? Two lists are identical! But, presenting traits in a different order had marked influence on the impression formed of the person.
Person rated as more extraverted (10.4) than introverted (6.4)
Person rated as less extraverted (10.0) than introverted (12.1)
(List C)warm VERSUS cold (List D)
generous,wise, happy, reliable, important, good-natured, polite?
Social Cognition Defined:
Topics studied in social cognition:
Schemas and prototypes
Potential sources of error
Relationship between affect and cognition
These are all really abstract concepts, but have very real consequences!
Schemas and prototypes
Mental frameworks containing information relevant to specific situations or events. (restaurants; funerals; going on a date; taking a test).
Formally defined: "...a cognitive structure that represents knowledge about a concept or type of stimulus, including its attributes and the relations among those attributes" (Fiske & Taylor, 1986, p. 98)
Example from Fiske & Taylor: Nancy vs. Jack (to be read to students by Tamara)
Substituting Jack for Nancy (including their roles) leads us to make use of our prior knowledge (schemas) about sexual harassment or college sports; guides how we turn the story into a coherent one; helps us fill in gaps; helps us remember story. The schemas we apply changes completely the meaning we attribute to
nature of the doctor's sympathetic reactions
reasons for fidgeting
motivation for speaking to professor
Once established, they help us interpret these situations and what's happening in them.
Can be a form of cognitive "short hand"
Mental models of the typical qualities of members of some group or category (fraternity members; professors; musicians)
Think of the most typical or prototypical instance of "a game." Now, think of other examples games that are games but aren't such typical examples. Idea is: We categorize events, activities, people, etc. with the prototypical features in mind, looking to see whether a new instance fits the category (e.g., of games) by evaluating how similar it is to the prototype.
Mental framework suggesting that certain traits and behaviors go together, and that persons possessing those characteristics form a certain type (think of Asch).
Mental framework containing information about how persons playing specific roles generally act, and what they are like (salesperson)
Scripts (Event schemas)
Mental frameworks for specific situations about what is expected to happen in a given setting
All types of schemas provide us with a cognitive scaffolding
Once established they save us a great deal of mental effort
We have them because we are cognitive misers.
They impact what we attend to
We are likely to notice information/ events that are inconsistent with schema. It stands out to us.
Restaurant: no table setting; no salt/pepper; no menu ....
Effects on encoding of incoming information
Information consistent with well-formed schemas is easier to encode
When schemas are first being developed, inconsistent information is more readily noticed and encoded
First day in a foreign restaurant: have to sit on the floor and eat with your hands. You'll notice this and probably store it in your memory as exceptions to your restaurant schema!
Tendency seems to stem from the fact that unexpected or inconsistent information is surprising and we need to work harder to understand it (Srull & Weyer, 1989)
Effects on retrieval of encoding information
If we activate a schema (by priming it), the schema influences what information we retrieve from memory
What is priming? It is the effect of "prior context" on how we interpret incoming information.
I want you to imagine that you are on vacation at the beach. The water is warm as it laps up against your legs and seems to glide effortlessly as it ebbs and flows from the sand out to the horizon and back again............... (l.d.)
We generally remember information that is part of schema or consistent with schema (shades of S. Bem: females remembered more weight-relevant words when they were weight-schematic)
Growing evidence that the more favorable our prototype of a social category or group, and the more similar we see ourselves to being like the prototype, the more likely we are to behave like those people
Gibbons, Gerrard, & McCoy (1995):
study of teenagers' prototypes of
teenager girls who get pregnant and
boys who get them pregnant
Heuristics are rules that allow us to make social judgments rapidly with reduced cognitive effort
Provides an organizing system to reduce the complexities of observable data
Help us avoid information overload
Usually they lead to sound judgments
Sometimes they lead us to make errors
Tendency to base judgments on extent to which current stimulus or situation resemble other stimuli or categories
Often such judgments are accurate, but sometimes wrong because not all members of category fit the prototype
We may overlook other useful information such as base rates
Your task is to decide whether this person is a lawyer or engineer. The person was drawn "at random" from a sample of 100 people. 30% of the people are known engineers and 70% known lawyers. We also know this about the person sampled: "Steve os very shy and withdrawn, with very little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail. He scuba dives in his spare time and at one time in his life was a heavy cocaine user." Is Steve an engineer or a lawyer?
we tend to ignore the prior probability of outcomes
we are relatively insensitive to predictive value of information. Info. about Steve could have equally well described a librarian -- yet, we used a prototype (most engineers are meek, et.c.) in assessing relevance of the information
we also use information that may be of little true diagnostic value in assessing Steve's occupation&emdash; known as the "illusion of validity" (hearing that Steve was a heavy cocaine user or scuba diver might make us back off in our certainty that he is an engineer, even though this information may in reality not be a fully reliable or accurate diagnostic indicator of this occupation)
Tendency to make judgments based on how easily specific kinds of information can be brought to mind
Often judgments are accurate, but sometimes wrong
Car buying example
What are major causes of death in the U.S.?
Availability heuristic can lead to false consensus effect (FCE)
the tendency to assume that others behave or think as we do to a greater extent than really is the case (What % of people believe that abortion is wrong?)
Reflects operation of availability heuristic:
We may find it easier to remember instances in which people agree with us than disagree
We tend to choose as friends people who tend to share our views
FCE happens because we want to believe that others agree with us; gives us confidence in our beliefs
Availability heuristic also demonstrates priming
Effect that occurs when some stimuli or events increase availability of information (remember our laundry detergent)
Reyes, Thompson, & Bower (1980) manipulated availability by varying the vividness of trial evidence while keeping its strength constant
Given evidence implying defendant was drunk:
Nonvivid version: he staggered and fell against a table at a party:
Vivid version: he staggered and fell against a table at a party; knocked bowl of guacamole onto white carpet
48 hours later, subjects in vivid condition were more likely to find defendant guilty
The greater the amount of attention we give to information, the more likely we are to encode and remember it, the more likely it is to influence social judgments (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990)
It is not always true that information we pay greater attention to exerts stronger effects on our social judgments.
For ex: Judgments of JFK's character long withstood leaks about his promiscuous behavior
Due to: Taking a planning mode of thought which focuses on the future: how we will do the task
Not looking backward to remember how long it has taken to perform similar tasks in the past
We make external attributions for past failures to complete tasks in expected amount of time, which reduces relevance of those experiences to current project
Makes adaptive sense--negative information may alert us to dangers that we need to respond to
But may cause difficulties if it leads to inappropriate responses
Wilson & Schooler (1991) -- When individuals engage in very careful analysis of reasons for judgments they may think of reasons that are most prominent and accessible
These may not be the most important factors in their judgments; they may be misled by the reasons they concoct and make less accurate judgments
Jam rating experiment: Participants who simply rated jams came closer to matching ratings of experts than participants who explained their reasons for their ratings
We often feel greater sympathy for people who experience negative outcomes after unusual actions than for people experiencing the same outcome after typical actions (missed airplane flight example)
It seems to be easier to imagine alternatives to unusual behavior, i.e., that person could have acted in normal way
We often feel more regret for actions that turn out badly than for actions we didn't perform, but could also have turned out badly
However, Gilovich and Medvec (1994) show that with the passage of time we tend more to regret things that we failed to do. Why?
Actions that turn out badly may be reversed or rationalized; missed opportunities more difficult
Failure to act often comes from fear; with time we feel less justified about feeling afraid
Easier to know consequences of actions; speculation about consequences of failure to act not close-ended (many possible outcomes)
Law of contagion -- when two objects touch they pass off properties to each other
Law of similarity -- objects that resemble each other share fundamental properties
© Copyright 2004 Tamara J Ferguson
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