Social Psychology Chapter 2: Social Cognition

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Social Cognition

The manner in which we interpret, analyze, remember and use information about the social world.

Schemas

"Mental frameworks" that center on a specific theme and help us to organize social information. Schemas develop from experience, and once formed exert a great deal of influence over the individual.

Heuristics

Simple rules for making complex decisions or for drawing inferences in a rapid, and seemingly effortless manner.

Affect

A human beings current feelings and moods.

Because humans have limited cognitive capacity...

we often devise shortcuts, like heuristics, to reduce cognitive effort. This often reduces cognitive expenditure but at the cost of accuracy.

Formed schemas exert a great deal of influence over...

what we notice (our attention), what we remember (encoding) and what we can later remember (retrieval).

Individuals usually remember more information consistent with their schemas...

rather than information that is inconsistent. However inconsistent information, particularly something that is so strange, can often be represented in memory as well.

Priming or a Primed Schema

Is a situation that occurs when stimuli or events increase the availability in memory or consciousness of specific types of information held in ones memory.

Unpriming or Unprimed Schema

Refers to the fact that the effects of a schema, or the influence that they exert over an individual (like aggression), tends to persist until they are somehow expressed in thought or behavior; only then do they persist.

Schemas are useful, however...

once they are formed, even if formed based on a misconception, they can still persist even in the presence of discriminating information; think of prejudice and stereotypes.

Schemas are also self-confirming...

because they can cause the individual to behave in ways that conform to them or confirm them.

Information Overload

Instances in which our ability to process information is exceeded, or "overloaded."

The three types of heuristics are...

the representative heuristic, the availability heuristic and the anchoring and adjustment heuristic.

Representative Heuristic

A strategy for making judgments based on the extent to which current stimuli or events resemble other stimuli or other events. A heuristic based on "resemblance." Think librarian example.

Availability Heuristic

A strategy for making judgements on the basis of how easily specific information can be brought into the mind. "If I can think of it, it must be important!" Think SUV accident example.

Anchoring and Adjustments Heuristic

A heuristic approach that involves the human tendency to to use a number or value as a "starting point" from which we create adjustments. These "adjustments" might not be enough to correct for an miscalculations in judgement. "Where you begin, makes a difference." Think of judge/lawyer example.

The two basic modes of social thought are...

Automatic and Controlled Processing.

Automatic Processing

Occurs when after extensive experience with a task or type of information, we reach a point where we can process said information in a seemingly effortless and thus "automatic manner."

Controlled Processing

Occurs when we take our time an analyze and information or events thoroughly, before jumping to conclusions.

The amygdala section of the brain controls...

automatic processing

The prefrontal cortex controls...

controlled processing.

When schemas are activated...

they exert a great of control over our thoughts and behaviors, often in an unconscious manner. This process strongly controls our behavior and prepares us to interact with people, groups and events in certain pre-programmed ways.

Not only is automatic processing quick and efficient...

but it also has a tendency to make us more happy with our decisions.

Human beings are not computers and thus susceptible to....

human errors, irrationality, and various biases.

Negativity Bias

Refers to the fact that we show greater sensitivity to negative information rather than positive information. This tendency is basic and probably derived from the evolutionary process. However focusing on "positive traits" is possible and thus an adaptive process.

Optimistic Bias

Our predisposition to believe that things will turn out well for us specifically. This bias is based in the fact individuals believe that they are more likely, than other people, to experience positive outcomes.

Overconfidence Barrier

Our tendency to have more confidence or "faith" in the accuracy of our judgements than is reasonable.

Planning Fallacy

Refers to our tendency to make optimistic predictions concerning how long a given task will take. These tasks usually take longer than expected.

Counterfactual Thinking

The tendency to imagine other outcomes in a situation rather than the ones that actually occurred. "What might have been?" rather than "What was." Counterfactual thinking can make us feel sympathy for others (think funerals, etc.) or make us regret some of our decisions.

Counterfactual thinking...

can boost our mood when we use "downward thinking" and imagine more negative outcomes.

Counterfactual thinking....

can only be overcome, or made positive in nature via hard cognitive work and effort and through thought suppression.

Thought Suppression

Our efforts to suppress certain types of thoughts from entering our conscious minds. Think of cigarettes, dieting, alcohol.

Thought suppression can sometimes have...

the opposite effect, and cause a rebound of sorts, to which we give into the thoughts we are trying to suppress.

Magical Thinking

Thinking that involves assumptions that aren't entirely rational. For example, the belief in the supernatural or the transference of properties between two objects in close proximity (like spider candy's, are really spiders, and not food and thus feared).

The belief in the supernatural stems from...

the human fear of death.

Terror Management

Our efforts to come to terms with the certainty of our own deaths. The belief in the supernatural is an aspect of terror management.

Our "Affect" or mood influences

cognition in numerous ways. Or better said, our feelings shape thoughts and thoughts shape feelings.

Mood Congruence Effects

The fact that we are more likely to store or remember positive information when in a positive mood and negative information when we are in a negative mood.

Mood Dependent Memory

The fact that what we remember while in a given mood may be determined in part but what we leaned when in a previously similar mood.

Affect can also influence

our creativity and determine how we perceive people and their behavior. For example, if you are in an aggressive mood and someone is tailgating you, you would see their behavior as being overtly aggressive.

Cognition influences affect via..

our interpretation of emotion provoking events and through the activation of schemas.

Affect and cognition are strongly

linked, because each one effects the other. Our moods can determine our thinking, and thinking (like say via schemas) can determine our moods.

Affect and Cognition though linked....

are controlled by two different regions of the brain. One region interprets emotional information, the other interprets logical information. "Emotion" = limbic system/ "Logic" = prefrontal cortex Also the area of the brain for "affect" is impulsive, while the area for logic is "more long-term oriented."

When people feel "down"...

they often engage in impulsive activities, like say eating a box of cookies, which are good for them in the short term (mood stabilizing) but bad in the long-term. People yield to temptation because it helps them to deal with strong negative feelings.

Being in a good mood all the time....

has its downsides. While people are in a good mood, they are more creative, and interested in helping people, however they are also more susceptible to ebing manipulated (i.e. giving into people, always saying yes). Being in a good mood also brings forth heuristic thinking, which can be good or bad. This occurs because being happy may lessen our ability and desire to process information; people in good moods often rely on the "availability heuristic."

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