Upgrade to remove ads
Social: 4. Perceiving Persons
Terms in this set (100)
A general term for the processes by which people come to understand one another
So like a detective who tries to reconstruct events by turning up witnesses, fingerprints, blood samples, and other evidence, the social perceiver comes to know others by relying on indirect clues—the elements of social perception. These clues arise from an interplay of three sources: persons, situations, and behavior.
Table: First Impressions in a Fraction of a Second
Judgement by name: A study
In one study, fictional characters with "old-generation" names such as Harry, Walter, Dorothy, and Edith were judged to be less popular and less intelligent than those with younger-generation names such as Kevin, Michael, Lisa, and Michelle.
Judgement by voice: A study
In another study, both men and women were seen as more feminine when they spoke in high-pitched voices than in lower-pitched voices.
The art of reading character from faces
Judgement by photograph: A study
Ran Hassin and Yaacov Trope (2000) found that people prejudge others in photographs as kind-hearted rather than mean-spirited based on such features as a full, round face, curly hair, long eyelashes, large eyes, a short nose, full lips, and an upturned mouth.
Interestingly, these researchers also found that just as people read traits from faces, at times they read traits into faces based on prior information. In one study, for example, participants who were told that a man was kind—compared to those told he was mean—later judged his face to be fuller, rounder, and more attractive.
Judgement by face: A study
In social perception studies of the human face, researchers have found that adults who have baby-faced features—large, round eyes; high eyebrows; round cheeks; a large forehead; smooth skin; and a rounded chin—tend to be seen as warm, kind, naive, weak, honest, and submissive.
In contrast, adults who have mature features—small eyes, low brows and a small forehead, wrinkled skin, and an angular chin—are seen as stronger, more dominant, and more competent.
Thus, in small claims court, judges are more likely to favor baby-faced defendants who are accused of intentional wrongdoing but rule against them when accused of negligence. And in the work setting, baby-faced job applicants are more likely to be recommended for employment as day-care teachers, whereas mature-faced adults are considered to be better suited for work as bankers.
Baby's face: Why?
To begin with, human beings are programmed by evolution to respond gently to infantile features so that real babies are treated with tender loving care.
Many years ago, Nobel prize-winning ethologist Konrad Lorenz noted that infantile features in many animal species seem to trigger a special nurturing response to cuteness.
Recently, this old idea derived new support from a brain-imaging study showing that a frontal brain region associated with love and other positive emotions is activated when people are exposed, even fleetingly, to pictures of babies' faces but not to pictures of the faces of other adults.
Our reflex-like response to babies is understandable. But do we really respond in the same way to baby-faced adults and, if so, why?
Leslie Zebrowitz believes that we do—that we associate infantile features with helplessness traits and then overgeneralize this expectation to baby-faced adults.
Consistent with this point, she and her colleagues found in a recent brain-imaging study that the region of the brain that was activated by pictures of babies' faces was also activated by pictures of baby-faced men.
Conclusion: People as social perceivers have a tendency to overgeneralize in making snap judgments.
Judgement by happiness
Faces are seen as trustworthy if they look happy, an emotion that signals a person who is safe to approach, and untrustworthy if they look angry, an emotion that signals danger to be avoided.
The scripts of life
In addition to the beliefs we hold about persons, each of us has preset notions about certain types of situations—"scripts" that enable us to anticipate the goals, behaviors, and outcomes that are likely to occur in a particular setting.
Based on past experience, people can easily imagine the sequences of events likely to unfold in a typical greeting or at a shopping mall, the dinner table, or a tennis match.
Scripts influence social perceptions in two ways.
1. We sometimes see what we expect to see in a particular situation.
Study: In one study, participants looked at photographs of human faces that had ambiguous expressions. When told that the person in the photo was being threatened by a vicious dog, they saw the facial expression as fearful; when told that the individual had just won money, participants interpreted the same expression as a sign of happiness.
2. People use what they know about social situations to explain the causes of human behavior.
An action seems to offer more information about a person when it departs from the norm than when it is common.
Deriving meaning by dividing
People derive meaning from their observations by dividing the continuous stream of human behavior into discrete "units."
Study 1: By having participants observe someone on videotape and press a button whenever they detect a meaningful action, Darren Newtson and his colleagues (1987) found that some perceivers break the behavior stream into a large number of fine units, whereas others break it into a small number of gross units.
Study 2: Research participants who were told to break an event into fine units rather than gross units attended more closely, detected more meaningful actions, and remembered more details about the actor's behavior than did participants who were told to break events into gross units.
The process by which people attribute humanlike mental states to various animate and inanimate objects, including other people.
Study: Studies show that people who identify someone's actions in high-level terms rather than low-level terms (for example, by describing the act of "painting a house" as "trying to make a house look new," not just "applying brush strokes") are also more likely to attribute humanizing thoughts, feelings, intentions, consciousness, and other states of mind to that actor.
Mind perception: Inanimate objects
Although people do not tend to attribute mental states to inanimate objects, in general the more humanlike a target object is, the more likely we are to attribute to it qualities of "mind."
Study: In a series of studies, Carey Morewedge and others (2007) found that whether people are asked to rate different animals in nature (such as a sloth, turtle, housefly, deer, wolf, and hummingbird); cartoon robots or human beings whose motion was presented in slow, medium, and fast speeds; or a purple blob oozing down a city street at the same, slower, or faster pace than the people around it, the result is always the same: People see inner qualities of mind in target objects that superficially resemble humans in their speed of movement.
"What kinds of things have minds?"
The results showed that people perceive minds along two dimensions: agency (a target's ability to plan and execute behavior) and experience (the capacity to feel pleasure, pain, and other sensations).
Overall, the more "mind" respondents attributed to a character, the more they liked it, valued it, wanted to make it happy, and wanted to rescue it from destruction.
Behavior that reveals a person's feelings without words, through facial expressions, body language, and vocal cues
Nonverbal behavior: Face
In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin (1872) proposed that the face expresses emotion in ways that are innate and understood by people all over the world.
Numerous studies have shown that when presented with photographs similar to those on page 106, people can reliably identify at least six "primary" emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust.
Nonverbal behavior: Face: Universal?
On the one hand, people all over the world are able to recognize the primary emotions from photographs of facial expressions.
On the other hand, people are 9 percent more accurate at judging faces from their own national, ethnic, or regional groups than from members of less familiar groups—indicating that we enjoy an "in-group advantage" when it comes to knowing how those who are closest to us are feeling.
Study: In a study that illustrates the point, Elfenbein and Ambady (2003) showed pictures of American faces to groups with varying degrees of exposure to Americans. As predicted, more life exposure was associated with greater accuracy, from a low of 60 percent among Chinese participants living in China up to 83 percent among Chinese living in the United States and 93 percent among non-Chinese Americans.
Recognizing emotions: Evolution
Darwin believed that the ability to recognize emotion in others has survival value for all members of a species. Th is hypothesis suggests that it is more important to identify some emotions than others.
Study 1: Indeed, studies have shown that angry faces arouse us and cause us to frown even when presented subliminally and without our awareness.
Study 2: Illustrating what Christine and Ranald Hansen (1988) called the "anger superiority effect," researchers have found that people are quicker to spot—and slower to look away from—angry faces in a crowd than faces with neutral and less threatening emotions.
Recognizing emotions: Current motivational state
Research participants who were led to fear social rejection and loneliness were quicker to spot faces in diverse crowds that wore welcoming smiles than other expressions.
Disgust is another basic emotion that has adaptive signifi cance. When confronted with an off ensive stimulus such as a foul odor, spoiled food, feces, rotting flesh, or the sight of mutilation, people react with an aversion that shows in the way they wrinkle the nose, raise the upper lip, and gape. This visceral reaction is often accompanied by nausea; in the case of bad food, this can facilitate expulsion from the mouth.
In nature, food poisoning is a real threat, so it is adaptive for us to recognize disgust in the face of others.
Study: They found that a structure in the brain known as the insula was activated not only when participants sniff ed the disgusting odor but also when they watched others sniffing it. This result suggests that people more than recognize the face of disgust; they experience it at a neural level.
Judging intelligence from reading voice
Study: Research participants were able to judge the intelligence of strangers accurately, as measured by standardized test scores, based only on hearing them read short sentences.
Judging CEOs from their headshots
100 college students rated the faces of CEOs from the top- and bottom-ranked Fortune 1000 companies on key leadership traits related to power (competent, dominant, mature-faced) and warmth (likable, trustworthy). As it turned out, the CEOs whose faces the students had rated as more powerful—based on nothing more than cropped head shots—were in fact more successful, as measured by their company's most recent profits.
Eye contact effect
Controlled laboratory studies of this "eye contact effect" show that people who look us straight in the eye quickly draw and then hold our attention, increase arousal, and activate key "social" areas of the brain and that this sensitivity is present at birth.
In many cultures, people tend to assume that someone who avoids eye contact is evasive, cold, fearful, shy, or indifferent; that frequent gazing signals intimacy, sincerity, self-confidence, and respect; and that the person who stares is tense, angry, and unfriendly.
If you've ever conversed with someone who kept looking away, as if uninterested, then you would understand why people might form negative impressions from "gaze disengagement."
Another powerful and primitive form of nonverbal signal is touch—as in the congratulatory high-five, the chest thump, the sympathetic pat on the back, the joking elbow in the ribs, the painfully strong handshake, and the lingering loving embrace.
Ekman and Friesen proposed that some channels of communication are difficult for deceivers to control, while others are relatively easy.
Study: Observers who watched tapes that focused on the body were better at detecting deception than were those who saw tapes focused on the face.
The face can communicate emotion but is relatively easy for deceivers to control, unlike nervous movements of the hands and feet.
Can you tell when someone is lying?
Consistently, in laboratories all over the world, results show that people are only about 54 percent accurate in judging truth and deception, too often accepting what others say at face value.
Although some social perceivers may be better than others at distinguishing truths and lies, individual differences are small. In fact, a good deal of research shows that professionals who are specially trained and who regularly make these kinds of judgments for a living—such as police detectives, judges, psychiatrists, customs inspectors, and those who administer lie-detector tests for the CIA, the FBI, and the military—are also highly prone to error.
Can you tell when someone is lying?
- Not exactly.
- But why?
1. There is a mismatch between the behavioral cues that actually signal deception and those we use to detect deception.
There are four channels of communication that provide potentially relevant information: the spoken word, the face, the body, and the voice. Yet when people have a reason to lie, the words they choose cannot be trusted, and they are generally able to control both their face and body (the voice is the most telling channel; when people lie, they tend to hesitate, then speed up and raise the pitch of their voice).
In a survey of some 2,500 adults in 63 countries, Charles Bond found that more than 70 percent believed that liars tend to avert their eyes—a cue that is not supported by any research. Similarly, most of Bond's survey respondents believed that people squirm, stutter, fidget, and touch themselves when they lie—also cues not supported by the research.
2. People tend to assume that the way to spot a liar is to watch for signs of stress in his or her behavior. Yet in important real-life situations—for example, at a high-stakes poker table, the security screening area of an airport, or a police interrogation room—truth tellers are also likely to exhibit signs of stress.
How to detect lies?
Aldert Vrij (2008) theorizes that lying is harder to do and requires more thinking than telling the truth. Therefore, he argues, we should focus on behavioral cues that betray cognitive effort.
Stable characteristics such as personality traits, attitudes, and abilities
A group of theories that describe how people explain the causes of behavior
To Heider, we are all scientists of a sort. Motivated to understand others well enough to manage our social lives, we observe, analyze, and explain their behavior. The explanations we come up with are called "attributions," and the theory that describes the process is called "attribution theory."
Personal: Attribution to internal characteristics of an actor, such as ability, personality, mood, or effort
Situational: Attribution to factors external to an actor, such as the task, other people, or luck
Correspondent inference theory
According to Edward Jones and Keith Davis (1965), each of us tries to understand other people by observing and analyzing their behavior. Jones and Davis's correspondent inference theory predicts that people try to infer from an action whether the act corresponds to an enduring personal characteristic of the actor.
1. Person's degree of choice
Behavior that is freely chosen is more informative about a person than behavior that is coerced.
2. Expectedness of behavior
An action tells us more about a person when it departs from the norm than when it is typical, part of a social role, or otherwise expected under the circumstances.
3. Intended effects or consequences of someone's behavior
Acts that produce many desirable outcomes do not reveal a person's specific motives as clearly as acts that produce only a single desirable outcome.
A principle of attribution theory that holds that people attribute behavior to factors that are present when a behavior occurs and are absent when it does not
In order for something to be the cause of a behavior, it must be present when the behavior occurs and absent when it does not.
1. Consensus information
Thinking like a scientist, you might seek out consensus information to see how different persons react to the same stimulus.
In other words, what do other moviegoers think about this film? If others also rave about it, then this stranger's behavior is high in consensus and is attributed to the stimulus.
2. Distinctiveness information
Still thinking like a scientist, you might also want to have distinctiveness information to see how the same person reacts to different stimuli.
In other words, what does this moviegoer think of other films? If the stranger is generally critical of other films, then the target behavior is high in distinctiveness and is attributed to the stimulus.
3. Consistency information
Finally, you might seek consistency information to see what happens to the behavior at another time when the person and the stimulus both remain the same.
According to Kelley, behavior that is consistent is attributed to the stimulus when consensus and distinctiveness are also high and to the person when they are low. In contrast, behavior that is low in consistency is attributed to transient circumstances, such as the temperature of the movie theater.
Do people really analyze behavior in the way that one might expect of computers? Do people have the time, the motivation, or the cognitive capacity for such elaborate and mindful processes?
The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. As social perceivers, we are limited in our ability to process all relevant information or we may lack the kinds of training needed to employ fully the principles of attribution theory. More important, we often don't make an effort to think carefully about our attributions.
Information-processing rules of thumb that enable us to think in ways that are quick and easy but that frequently lead to error
The tendency to estimate the likelihood that an event will occur by how easily instances of it come to mind
Ex. Which is more common, words that start with the letter r or words that contain r as the third letter?
Study: Consistent with the fact that people tend to fear things that sound unfamiliar, participants in one study rated fictional food additives as more hazardous to health when the names were difficult to pronounce, such as Hnegripitrom, than when they were easier to pronounce, such as Magnalroxate.
1. False-consensus effect
2. Base-rate fallacy
The tendency for people to overestimate the extent to which others share their opinions, attributes, and behaviors
In part, the false-consensus bias is a by-product of the availability heuristic. We tend to associate with others who are like us in important ways, so we are more likely to notice and recall instances of similar rather than dissimilar behavior.
Interestingly, people do not exhibit this bias when asked to predict the behavior of groups other than their own (?) or when predicting aspects of others that they share but see as particular to themselves rather than typical.
The finding that people are relatively insensitive to consensus information presented in the form of numerical base rates
Social perceptions are influenced more by one vivid life story than by hard statistical facts.
People are relatively insensitive to numerical base rates, or probabilities; they are influenced more by graphic, dramatic events such as the sight of a multimillion-dollar lottery winner celebrating on TV or a photograph of bodies being pulled from the wreckage of a plane crash.
A single death is a tragedy; a
million is a statistic.
Logically, statistics that summarize the experiences of large numbers of people are more informative than a single and perhaps atypical case, but perceivers march to a diff erent drummer. As long as the personal anecdote is seen as relevant and the source as credible, it seems that one good image is worth a thousand numbers.
Base-rate fallacy: Overestimation
People overestimate the number of those who die in shootings, fires, floods, and terrorist bombings and underestimate the death toll caused by heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other mundane events.
The tendency to imagine alternative events or outcomes that might have occurred but did not
People can be influenced by how easy it is to imagine events that did not occur.
Counterfactual thinking: Regret
Study 1: People's top three regrets center, in order, on education ("I should have stayed in school"), career ("If only I had applied for that job"), and romance ("If only I had asked her out")—all domains that present us with opportunities that we may or may not realize.
Study 2: We are more likely to think about what might have been—often with feelings of regret—after negative outcomes that result from actions we take rather than from actions we don't take.
Counterfactual thinking: First instinct fallacy
Over the years, research has shown that most changes in test answers are from incorrect to correct. Yet most college students harbor the "first instinct fallacy" that it is best to stick with one's original answer. Why?
Study: Myth arises from counterfactual thinking: that students are more likely to react with regret and frustration ("If only I had . . .") after changing a correct answer than after failing to change an incorrect answer.
Counterfactual thinking: Being on the verge
According to Victoria Medvec and Kenneth Savitsky (1997), certain situations—such as being on the verge of a better or worse outcome, just above or below some cutoff point—also make it especially easy to conjure up images of what might have been.
Imagine, for example, that you are an Olympic athlete and have just won a silver medal—a remarkable feat. Now imagine that you have just won the bronze medal. Which situation would make you feel better?
Study 1: Medvec and others (1995) videotaped 41 athletes in the 1992 summer Olympic Games at the moment they realized that they had won a silver or a bronze medal and again, later, during the medal ceremony. Then they showed these tapes, without sound, to people who did not know the order of finish.
The intriguing result, as you might expect, was that the bronze medalists, on average, seemed happier than the silver medalists.
Study 2: Participants who watched interviews with many of these same athletes rated the silver medalists as more negatively focused on finishing second rather than first and the bronze medalists as more positively focused on finishing third rather than fourth.
Fundamental attribution error
The tendency to focus on the role of personal causes and underestimate the impact of situations on other people's behavior
Fundamental attribution error:
- What if the situation's impact is clear?
People fall prey to the fundamental attribution error even when they are fully aware of the situation's impact on behavior.
Study 1: The participants were themselves assigned to take a position, whereupon they swapped essays and rated each other. Remarkably, they still jumped to conclusions about each other's attitudes.
Study 2: Participants inferred attitudes from a speech even when they were the ones who had assigned the position to be taken.
Study 3: By a flip of the coin, participants in this study were randomly assigned to play the role of either the questioner or the contestant in a quiz game while spectators looked on. In front of the contestant and spectators, the experimenter instructed each questioner to write 10 challenging questions from his or her own store of general knowledge.
Picture the events that transpired. The questioners appeared more knowledgeable than the contestants. After all, they knew all the answers. But a moment's refl ection should remind us that the situation put the questioner at a distinct advantage (there were no differences between the two groups on an objective test of general knowledge).
Spectators rated the questioners as above average in their general knowledge and the contestants as below average. The contestants even rated themselves as inferior to their partners.
How we make attributions?
It appears that social perception is a two-step process: First we identify the behavior and make a quick personal attribution, then we correct or adjust that inference to account for situational infl uences. At least for those raised in a Western culture, the first step is simple and automatic, like a reflex; the second requires attention, thought, and effort.
First, without realizing it, people often form impressions of others based on a quick glimpse at a face or fleeting sample of behavior. Second, perceivers are more likely to commit the fundamental attribution error when they are cognitively busy, or distracted, as they observe the target person than when they pay full attention.
Attributions: Why is the first step such a snap, and why does it seem so natural for people to assume a link between acts and personal dispositions?
One possible explanation is based on Heider's (1958) insight that people see others' dispositions in behavior because of a perceptual bias, something like an optical illusion. When you listen to a speech or watch a quiz show, the actor is the conspicuous figure of your attention; the situation fades into the background ("out of sight, out of mind," as they say).
According to Heider, people attribute events to factors that are perceptually conspicuous, or salient.
Herodotus: Egyptians vs. Greeks
In the fifth century b.c.e., Herodotus, a Greek historian, argued that the Greeks and Egyptians thought differently because the Greeks wrote from left to right and the Egyptians from right to left.
Is it possible that the fundamental attribution error is a uniquely Western phenomenon?
Study: To answer these questions, Joan Miller (1984) asked Americans and Asian Indians of varying ages to describe the causes of positive and negative behaviors they had observed in their lives. Among young children, there were no cultural diff erences. With increasing age, however, the American participants made more personal attributions, while the Indians made more situational attributions.
Other studies: People form habits of thought, learning to make attributions according to culturally formed beliefs about the causes of human behavior.
United States vs. Japan: Background information
Study 1: They showed American and Japanese college students underwater scenes featuring a cast of small fish, small animals, plants, rocks, and coral and one or more large, fast-moving focal fish, the stars of the show. Moments later, when asked to recount what they had seen, both groups recalled details about the focal fish to a nearly equal extent, but the Japanese reported far more details about the supporting cast in the background.
Study 2: By analyzing the newspaper and TV coverage in these countries, these researchers discovered that although everyone attributed victory and defeat to the athletes, American media were more likely to focus on each athlete's unique personal attributes (such as strength, speed, health, and determination). "I just stayed focused," said Misty Hyman, American gold medalist swimmer. "It was time to show the world what I could do." In addition to refl ecting on personal attributes, Japanese media were also more likely to report more wholly on an athlete's background, his or her mental state, and the role of others such as parents, coaches, and competitors. Woman's marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi explained her own success this way: "Here is the best coach in the world, the best manager in the world, and all of the people who support me—all of these things were getting together and became a gold medal."
Bicultural people: Is it possible that they view people through one cultural frame or the other, depending on which one is brought to mind?
It's interesting that when shown a picture of one fish swimming ahead of a group, and asked why, Americans see the lone fi sh as leading the others (a personal attribution), while Chinese see the same fish as being chased by the others (a situational attribution). But what about bicultural social perceivers?
Study: In a study of China-born students attending college in California, researchers presented images symbolizing one of the two cultures (such as the U.S. and Chinese flags), administered the fish test, and found that compared to students exposed to the American images, those who saw the Chinese images made more situational attributions, seeing the lone fi sh as being chased rather than as leading.
Social perception: Motivational biases
As objective as we try to be, our social perceptions are sometimes colored by personal needs, wishes, and preferences.
Study: In a series of studies, Emily Balcetis and David Dunning (2006) showed stimuli like this one to college students who thought they were participating in a taste-testing experiment. The students were told that they would be randomly assigned to taste either freshly squeezed orange juice or a vile, greenish, foul-smelling "organic" drink—depending on whether a letter or a number was flashed on a laptop computer. For those told that a letter would assign them to the orange juice condition, 72 percent saw the letter "B." For those told that a number would assign them to the orange juice, 61 percent saw the number "13."
Social perception: Self-esteem
According to Dunning (2005), the need for self-esteem can bias social perceptions in other subtle ways, too, even when we don't realize that the self is implicated.
Study: It turns out that students who describe themselves as people-oriented see social skills as necessary for good leadership, while those who are more task-focused see a task orientation as better for leadership. Hence, people tend to judge favorably others who are similar to themselves rather than different on key characteristics.
Social perception: Ideology: Do conservatives and liberals think differently about the causes of human behavior, or do the attributions they make depend on whether the particular behavior they're trying to explain fits with their ideology?
Study: In a series of studies, Linda Skitka and others (2002) had college students who identified themselves as conservative or liberal make attributions for various events. They found that while participants in general made personal attributions, as Westerners reflexively tend to do, they corrected for situational factors when ideologically motivated to do so.
To explain why a prisoner was paroled, conservatives were more likely to believe that the facility was overcrowded (a situational attribution) than that the prisoner had reformed (a personal attribution); to explain why a man lost his job, liberals were more likely to blame the company's finances (a situational attribution) than the worker's poor performance (a personal attribution).
Belief in a just world
The belief that individuals get what they deserve in life, an orientation that leads people to disparage victims
Social perception and Belief in a just world
According to Lerner, people need to view the world as a just place in which we "get what we deserve" and "deserve what we get"—a world where hard work and clean living always pay off and where laziness and a sinful lifestyle are punished. To believe otherwise is to concede that we, too, are vulnerable to the cruel twists and turns of fate.
Research suggests that the belief in a just world can help victims cope and serves as a buffer against stress.
If people cannot help or compensate the victims of misfortune, they turn on them. Thus, it is often assumed that poor people are lazy, that crime victims are careless, that battered wives provoke their abusive husbands, and that gay men and women with AIDS are promiscuous. As you might expect, cross-national comparisons reveal that people in poorer countries are less likely than those in more affluent countries to believe in a just world.
The tendency to disparage victims may seem like just another symptom of the fundamental attribution error: too much focus on the person and not enough on the situation. But the conditions that trigger this tendency suggest there is more to it.
Over the years, studies have shown that accident victims are held more responsible for their fate when the consequences of the accident are severe rather than mild, when the victim's situation is similar to the perceiver's, when the perceiver is generally anxious about threats to the self, and when the perceiver identifies with the victim.
Apparently, the more threatened we feel by an apparent injustice, the greater is the need to protect ourselves from the dreadful implication that it could happen to us, an implication we defend by disparaging the victim.
(*) Ironically, recent research shows that people may also satisfy their belief in a just world by enhancing members of disadvantaged groups—for example, by inferring that poor people are happy and that obese people are sociable, both attributes that restore justice by compensation.
Study: In a laboratory experiment that reveals part of this process at work, participants watched a TV news story about a boy who was robbed and beaten. Some were told that the boy's assailants were captured, tried, and sent to prison. Others were told that the assailants fled the country, never to be brought to trial—a story that strains one's belief in a just world. Afterward, participants were asked to name as quickly as they could the colors in which various words in a list were typed (for example, the word chair may have been written in blue, floor in yellow, and wide in red). When the words themselves were neutral, all participants—regardless of which story they had seen—were equally fast at naming the colors. But when the words pertained to justice (words such as fair and unequal), those who had seen the justice-threatened version of the story were more distracted by the words and hence slower to name the colors. In fact, the more distracted they were, the more they derogated the victim.
The process of integrating information about a person to form a coherent impression
1. Sumation model
2. Averaging model
Suppose you're told that an applicant is friendly and intelligent, two highly favorable qualities. Would you be more or less impressed if you then learned that this applicant was also prudent and even-tempered, two moderately favorable qualities? If you are more impressed, then you are intuitively following a summation model of impression formation: The more positive traits there are, the better. If you are less impressed, then you are using an averaging model: The higher the average value of all the various traits, the better.
Sumation model vs. Averaging model
Study: He asked a group of participants to rate how much they liked a person described by two traits with extremely high scale values (H, H). A second group received a list of four traits that included two that were high and two that were moderately high in their scale values (H, H, Ml, Ml). In a third group, participants received two extremely low, negative traits (L, L). In a fourth group, they received four traits, including two that were low and two that were moderately low (L, L, M2, M2).
What effect did the moderate traits have on impressions? As predicted by an averaging model, the moderate traits diluted from rather than added to the impact of the highly positive and negative traits.
(*) The practical implication for those who write letters of recommendation is clear.
Information integration theory
Impressions formed of others are based on a combination, or integration, of (1) personal dispositions of the perceiver and (2) a weighted average, not a simple average, of the target person's characteristics.
1. Perceiver characteristics
3. Target characteristics
4. Implicit theories of personality
5. Primacy effect
Information integration theory:
When people are asked to describe a group of target individuals, there's typically more overlap between the various descriptions provided by the same perceiver than there is between those provided for the same target.
1. We tend to use ourselves as a standard, or frame of reference, when evaluating others.
Study: Compared with the inert couch potato, for example, the serious jock is more likely to see others as less active and athletic.
2. People also tend to see their own skills and traits as particularly desirable for others to have.
3. A perceiver's current, temporary mood can also influence the impressions formed of others.
Study: When presented with behavioral information about various characters, participants spent more time attending to positive facts and formed more favorable impressions when they were happy than when they were sad.
Follow-up: People who are induced into a happy mood are also more optimistic, more lenient, and less critical in the attributions they make for others who succeed or fail. They are also more likely to interpret another person's smile as genuine and heartfelt.
The tendency for recently used or perceived words or ideas to come to mind easily and influence the interpretation of new information
Information integration theory: Priming
Study: Research participants were presented with a list of trait words, ostensibly as part of an experiment on memory. In fact, the task was designed as a priming device to plant certain ideas in their minds. Some participants read words that evoked a positive image: brave, independent, adventurous. Others read words that evoked a more negative image: reckless, foolish, careless. Later, in what they thought to be an unrelated experiment, participants read about a man named Donald who climbed mountains, drove in a demolition derby, and tried to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a sailboat.
As predicted, their impressions of Donald were shaped by the trait words they had earlier memorized. Those exposed to positive words later formed more favorable impressions of him than those exposed to negative words.
All the participants read exactly the same description, yet they formed diff erent impressions depending on what concept was already on their minds to be used as a basis for comparison.
(*) In fact, priming seems to work best when the prime words are presented so rapidly that people are not even aware of the exposure.
Priming: Motivation and social behavior
Research has shown that our motivation and even our social behavior are also subject to the automatic effects of priming without awareness.
Study 1: John Bargh and Tanya Chartrand (1999) gave participants a "word search" puzzle that contained either neutral words or words associated with achievement motivation (strive, win, master, compete, succeed). Afterward, the participants were left alone and given three minutes to write down as many words as they could form from a set of Scrabble letter tiles. When the three-minute limit was up, they were signaled over an intercom to stop. Did these participants, who were driven to obtain a high score, stop on cue or continue to write? Through the use of hidden cameras, the experimenters observed that 57 percent of those primed with achievement-related words continued to write after the stop signal, compared to only 22 percent in the control group.
Study 2: Bargh, Chen, and Burrows (1996) gave people 30 sets of words presented in scrambled order ("he it hides fi nds instantly") and told them to use some of the words in each set to form grammatical sentences. After explaining the test, which would take five minutes, the experimenter told participants to locate him down the hall when they were finished so he could administer a second task. So far so good. But when participants found the experimenter, he was in the hallway immersed in conversation, and he stayed in that conversation for 10 full minutes without acknowledging their presence. What's a person to do, wait patiently or interrupt? The participants didn't know it, but some had worked on a scrambled word test that contained many "politeness" words ( yield, respect, considerate, courteous), while others had been exposed to words related to rudeness (disturb, intrude, bold, bluntly).
Would these test words secretly prime participants, a few minutes later, to behave in one way or the other? Yes. Compared with those given the neutral words to unscramble, participants primed for rudeness were more likely—and those primed for politeness were less likely—to break in and interrupt the experimenter.
Priming: What accounts for this effect of priming, not only on our social perceptions but also on our behavior?
The link between perception and behavior is automatic; it happens like a mindless reflex. Present scrambled words that prime the "elderly" stereotype (old, bingo) and research participants walk out of the experiment more slowly as if mimicking an elderly person. But Why?
Joseph Cesario and others (2006) suggest that the automatic priming of behavior is an adaptive social mechanism that helps us to prepare for upcoming encounters with a primed target—if we are so motivated.
After measuring participants' attitudes toward the elderly, these researchers predicted and found that those who liked old people walked more slowly after priming (as if synchronizing with a slow friend), while those who disliked old people walked more quickly (as if fleeing from such an interaction).
Information integration theory: Target characteristics
Individuals can reliably be distinguished from one another along five broad traits, or factors: extroversion, emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Some of these factors are easier to judge than others.
1. Study: Social perceivers are most likely to agree in their judgments of a target's extroversion: that is, the extent to which he or she is sociable, friendly, fun-loving, outgoing, and adventurous.
2. The valence of a trait—whether it is considered good or bad—also affects its impact on our final impressions. Over the years, research has shown that people exhibit a "trait negativity bias," the tendency for negative information to weigh more heavily on our impressions than positive information.
It seems that we tend to view others favorably, so we are quick to take notice and pay more careful attention when this expectation is violated.
One bad trait may well be enough to destroy a person's reputation, regardless of other qualities. Research on American political campaigns confirms the point: Public opinion is shaped more by a candidate's "negatives" than by positive information.
In light of all this research, Baumeister and others (2001) have concluded that bad is stronger than good in a "disappointingly relentless pattern."
When you think about it, it's probably adaptive for people to stay alert for and pay particularly close attention to negative, potentially threatening information. Recent research suggests that people are quicker to sense their exposure to subliminally presented negative words such as bomb, thief, shark, and cancer than to positive words such as baby, sweet, friend, and beach.
This sensitivity to negative information is found in infants less than a year old.
Implicit personality theory
A network of assumptions people make about the relationships among traits and behaviors
Information integration theory:
Implicit theories of personality
Knowing that someone has one trait leads us to infer that he or she has other traits as well.
Study 1: Asch told one group of research participants that an individual was "intelligent, skillful, industrious, warm, determined, practical and cautious." Another group read an identical list of traits, except that the word warm was replaced by cold. Only the one term was changed, but the two groups formed very different impressions. Participants inferred that the warm person was also happier and more generous, good-natured, and humorous than the cold person.
Yet when two other words were varied ( polite and blunt), the differences were less pronounced. Why? Asch concluded that warm and cold are central traits, meaning that they imply the presence of certain other traits and exert a powerful influence on final impressions.
Study 2: When college students in different classes were told ahead of time that a guest lecturer was a warm or cold person, their impressions after the lecture were consistent with these beliefs, even though he gave the same lecture to everyone.
Traits that exert a powerful influence on overall impressions
Figure: Universal Dimensions of Social Cognition
The traits—positive and negative alike—
were best captured by two dimensions: social and intellectual.
More recent research has since confi rmed this basic point that people diff erentiate each other first in terms of warmth ("warm" is seen in such traits as friendly, helpful, and sincere), and second in terms of their competence ("competent" is seen in such traits as smart, skillful, and determined). According to Susan Fiske and her colleagues (2007), warmth and competence are "universal dimensions of social cognition."
The tendency for information presented early in a sequence to have more impact on impressions than information presented later
Information integration theory: Primacy effect
Study 1: In another of Asch's (1946) classic experiments, one group of participants learned that a person was "intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, and envious." A second group received exactly the same list but in reverse order. Rationally speaking, the two groups should have felt the same way about the person. But instead, participants who heard the first list in which the more positive traits came first formed more favorable impressions than did those who heard the second list.
Study 2: Similar findings were obtained among participants who watched a videotape of a woman taking an SAT-like test. In all cases, she correctly answered 15 out of 30 multiple-choice questions. But participants who observed a pattern of initial success followed by failure perceived the woman as more intelligent than did those who observed the opposite pattern of failure followed by success.
Primacy effect: What accounts for it?
1. Once perceivers think they have formed an accurate impression of someone, they tend to pay less attention to subsequent information.
Thus, when research participants read a series of statements about a person, the amount of time they spent reading each of the items declined steadily with each succeeding statement.
(*) Does this mean we are doomed to a life of primacy? Not at all. If we are unstimulated or mentally tired, our attention may wane. But if perceivers are sufficiently motivated to avoid tuning out and are not pressured to form a quick first impression, then primacy effects are diminished.
(*) Arie Kruglanski and Donna Webster (1996) found that some people are more likely than others to "seize" upon and "freeze" their first impressions. Apparently, individuals differ in their need for closure, the desire to reduce ambiguity.
2. Change-of-meaning hypothesis: Once people have formed an impression, they start to interpret inconsistent information in light of that impression.
When people are told that a kind person is calm, they assume that he or she is gentle, peaceful, and serene. When a cruel person is said to be calm, however, the same word is interpreted to mean cool, shrewd, and calculating. There are many examples to illustrate the point. Based on your first impression, the word proud can mean self-respecting or conceited, critical can mean astute or picky, and impulsive can mean spontaneous or reckless.
Need for closure
The desire to reduce cognitive uncertainty, which heightens the importance of first impressions
People who are low in this regard are open-minded, deliberate, and perhaps even reluctant to draw firm conclusions about others.
In contrast, those who are high in the need for closure tend to be impulsive and impatient and to form quick and lasting judgments of others.
The tendency to seek, interpret, and create information that verifies existing beliefs
Once people make up their minds about something—even if they have incomplete information—they become more and more unlikely to change their minds when confronted with new evidence.
First impressions: Initials perceptions and beliefs
Study 1: Imagine you are looking at a slide that is completely out of focus. Gradually, it becomes focused enough so that the image is less blurry. At this point, the experimenter wants to know if you can recognize the picture. The response you're likely to make is interesting. Participants in experiments of this type have more trouble making an identification if they watch the gradual focusing procedure than if they simply view the final, blurry image.
In the mechanics of the perceptual process, people apparently form early impressions that interfere with their subsequent ability to "see straight" once presented with improved evidence.
Study 2: John Darley and Paget Gross (1983) asked participants to evaluate the academic potential of a 9-year-old girl named Hannah. One group was led to believe that Hannah came from an affluent community in which both parents were well-educated professionals (high expectations). A second group thought that she was from a run-down urban neighborhood and that both parents were uneducated blue-collar workers (low expectations). As shown in Figure 4.12, participants in the first group were slightly more optimistic in their ratings of Hannah's potential than were those in the second group. In each of these groups, however, half the participants then watched a videotape of Hannah taking an achievement test. Her performance on the tape seemed average. She correctly answered some difficult questions but missed others that were relatively easy. Look again at Figure 4.12 and you'll see that even though all participants saw the same tape, Hannah now received much lower ratings of ability from those who thought she was poor and higher ratings from those who thought she was affluent.
Apparently, presenting an identical body of mixed evidence did not extinguish the biasing effects of beliefs; it fueled these effects.
Conclusion: Events that are ambiguous enough to support contrasting interpretations are like inkblots: We see in them what we want or expect to see.
Study 3: Researchers had people rate from photographs the extent to which pairs of adults and children resembled each other. Interestingly, the participants did not see more resemblance in parents and offspring than in random pairs of adults and children. Yet when told that certain pairs were related, they did "see" a resemblance, even when the relatedness information was false.
What about information that plainly disconfirms our beliefs? What then happens to our first impressions?
Study: Craig Anderson and his colleagues (1980) addressed this question by supplying participants with false information. After they had time to think about it, they were told that it was untrue. In one experiment, half the participants read case studies suggesting that people who take risks make better firefighters than do those who are cautious. The others read cases suggesting the opposite conclusion. Next, participants were asked to come up with a theory for the suggested correlation. The possibilities are easy to imagine: "He who hesitates is lost" supports risk-taking, whereas "You have to look before you leap" supports caution. Finally, participants were led to believe that the session was over and were told that the information they had received was false, manufactured for the sake of the experiment. Participants, however, did not abandon their theories about firefighters.
Instead they exhibited belief perseverance, sticking to initial beliefs even after these had been discredited.
The tendency to maintain beliefs even after they have been discredited
Belief perseverance: A solution
Once people form an opinion, that opinion becomes strengthened when they merely think about the topic, even if they do not articulate the reasons for it.
And therein lies a possible solution. By asking people to consider why an alternative theory might be true, we can reduce or eliminate the belief perseverance effects to which they are vulnerable.
Confirmatory hypothesis testing
Study: do we seek information objectively or are we inclined to confirm the suspicions we already hold?
Mark Snyder and William Swann (1978) addressed this question by having pairs of participants who were strangers to one another take part in a getting-acquainted interview. In each pair, one participant was supposed to interview the other. But first, that participant was falsely led to believe that his or her partner was either introverted or extroverted (actually, participants were assigned to these conditions on a random basis) and was then told to select questions from a prepared list. Those who thought they were talking to an introvert chose mostly introvert-oriented questions ("Have you ever felt left out of some social group?"), while those who thought they were talking to an extrovert asked extrovert-oriented questions ("How do you liven up a party?"). Expecting a certain kind of person, participants unwittingly sought evidence thatwould confirm their expectations. By asking loaded questions, in fact, the interviewers actually gathered support for their beliefs.
Thus, neutral observers who later listened to the tapes were also left with the mistaken impression that the interviewees really were as introverted or extroverted as the interviewers had assumed.
Conclusion: Simply by going along with the questions that are asked, you supply evidence confirming the interviewer's beliefs. Thus, perceivers set in motion a vicious cycle: Thinking someone has a certain trait, they engage in a one-sided search for information and in doing so, they create a reality that ultimately supports their beliefs.
Are people so blinded by their existing beliefs that they cannot manage an open and objective search for evidence?
1. When people are not certain of their beliefs and are concerned about the accuracy of their impressions, (2) when they are allowed to prepare their own interviews, (3) when available non-confirmatory questions are better than the confirmatory questions, they tend to pursue a more balanced search for information.
The process by which one's expectations about a person eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm those expectations
Study: Noticing that teachers had higher expectations for better students, they wondered if teacher expectations influenced student performance rather than the other way around. To address the question, they told teachers in a San Francisco elementary school that certain pupils were on the verge of an intellectual growth spurt. The results of an IQ test were cited, but in fact, the pupils had been randomly selected. Eight months later, when real tests were administered, the "late bloomers" exhibited an increase in their IQ scores compared with children assigned to a control group. They were also evaluated more favorably by their classroom teachers.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: If positive teacher expectations can boost student performance, can negative expectations have the opposite effect? What about the social implications? Could it be that affluent children are destined for success and disadvantaged children are doomed to failure because educators hold different expectations for them?
Study: Teachers' expectations significantly predicted their students' performance 36 percent of the time. Mercifully, the predictive value of teacher expectancies seems to wear off, not accumulate, as children graduate from one grade to the next.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: How might teacher expectations be transformed into reality?
1. Covert communication
The teacher forms an initial impression of students early in the school year based, perhaps, on their background or reputation, physical appearance, initial classroom performance, and standardized test scores. The teacher then alters his or her behavior in ways that are consistent with that impression. If initial expectations are high rather than low, the teacher gives the student more praise, more attention, more challenging homework, and better feedback. In turn, the student adjusts his or her own behavior.
If the signals are positive, the student may become energized, work hard, and succeed. If negative, there may be a loss of interest and self-confi dence. The cycle is thus complete and the expectations confirmed.
2. Accurate expectations
But wait. That same result is also consistent with a more innocent possibility: that perhaps the expectations that teachers form of their students are accurate.
Study 1: Addressing this question in a longitudinal study of mothers and their children, Stephanie Madon and others (2003) found that underage adolescents are more likely to drink when their mothers had earlier expected them to. Statistical analyses revealed that this prophecy was fulfilled in part because the mothers "influence" their sons and daughters, and in part because the mothers are able to "predict" their children's behavior.
Study 2: In a study of 1,000 men assigned to 29 platoons in the Israel Defense Forces, Dov Eden (1990) led some platoon leaders but not others to expect that the groups of trainees they were about to receive had great potential (in fact, these groups were of average ability). After 10 weeks, the trainees assigned to the highexpectation platoons scored higher than the others on written exams and on the ability to operate a weapon.
Study 3: Kassin and others (2003) had some college students but not others commit a mock crime, stealing $100 from a laboratory. All suspects were then questioned by student interrogators who were led to believe that their suspect was probably guilty or probably innocent. Interrogators who presumed guilt asked more incriminating questions, conducted more coercive interrogations, and tried harder to get the suspect to confess. In turn, this more aggressive style made the suspects sound defensive and led observers who later listened to the tapes to judge them guilty, even when they were innocent.
Other studies: Judges unwittingly bias juries through their nonverbal behavior, and that negotiators settle for lesser outcomes if they believe that their counterparts are highly competitive.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: How does it work?
First, a perceiver forms an impression of a target person, which may be based on interactions with the target or on other information.
Second, the perceiver behaves in a manner that is consistent with that first impression.
Third, the target person unwittingly adjusts his or her behavior to the perceiver's actions.
The net result: behavioral confirmation of the first impression.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: A way out?
1. Consider the first step, the link between one's expectations and one's behavior toward the target person. In the typical study, perceivers try to get to know the target on only a casual basis and are not necessarily driven to form an accurate impression. But when perceivers are highly motivated to seek the truth (as when they are considering the target as a possible teammate or opponent), they become more objective and often do not confirm prior expectations.
2. Now consider the second step, the link between a perceiver's behavior and the target's response. In the designs of much of the past research (as in much of life), target persons were not aware of the false impressions held by others. Thus, it is unlikely that Rosenthal and Jacobson's (1968) "late bloomers" knew of their teachers' high expectations or that Snyder and Swann's (1978) "introverts" and "extroverts" knew of their interviewers' misconceptions. But what if they had known? How would you react if you found yourself being cast in a particular light?
When it happened to participants in one experiment, they managed to overcome the effect by behaving in ways that forced the perceivers to abandon their expectations.
Conclusion: Social perception is a two-way street; the persons we judge have their own prophecies to fulfill.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: Prophecies of power
Study: In one study, John Copeland (1994) put either the perceiver or the target into a position of relative power. In all cases, the perceiver interacted with a target who was said to be introverted or extroverted. In half the pairs, the perceiver was given the power to accept or reject the target as a teammate for a money-winning game. In the other half, it was the target who was empowered to choose a teammate. The two participants interacted, the interaction was recorded, and neutral observers listened to the tapes and rated the target person. So did perceivers cause the targets to behave as introverted or extroverted, depending on initial expectations? Yes and no.
Illustrating what Copeland called "prophecies of power," the results showed that high-power perceivers triggered the self-fulfilling prophecy, as in past research, but that low-power perceivers did not. In the low-power situation, the perceivers spent less time getting to know the target person and more time trying to be liked.
Are we aware that we are not really great judges?
We often have little awareness of our limitations, leading us to feel overconfident in our judgments.
Study: David Dunning and his colleagues (1990) asked college students to predict how a target person would react in various situations. Some made predictions about a fellow student whom they had just met and interviewed and others made predictions about their roommates. In both cases, participants reported their confidence in each prediction and accuracy was determined by the responses of the target persons themselves. The results were clear: Regardless of whether they judged a stranger or a roommate, the students consistently overestimated the accuracy of their predictions.
(*) In fact, Kruger and Dunning (1999) found that people who scored low on tests of spelling, logic, grammar, and humor appreciation were later the most likely to overestimate their own performance. Apparently, poor performers are doubly cursed: They don't know what they don't know—and they don't know they are biased.
Figure: The Processes of Social Perception
"If we're so dumb, how come we made it to the moon?"
A number of years ago, Herbert Simon (1956) coined the term satisficing (by combining satisfying and sufficing) to describe the way people make judgments that while not logically perfect are good enough.
Today, many psychologists believe that people operate by a principle of "bounded rationality"—that we are rational within bounds depending on our abilities, motives, available time, and other factors.
(*) As Thomas Gilovich (1991) pointed out many years ago, more Americans believe in ESP than in evolution and there are 20 times more astrologers in the world than astronomers.
Despite our imperfections, there are four reasons to be guardedly optimistic about our competence as social perceivers:
Review: Observation: The Elements of Social Perception
Review: Attribution: From Elements to Dispositions
Review: Integration: From Dispositions to Impressions
Review: Confirmation Biases: From Impressions to Reality
Putting Common Sense to Test
THIS SET IS OFTEN IN FOLDERS WITH...
Social: 1. What is social psychology?
Social: 2. Doing Social Psychology Resea…
Social: 3. The Social Self
Social Psychology Chapter 1
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...
possible social psychology exam #2 questions
Psychology 1010 exam 4 part 2
PSYC TEST 2
OTHER SETS BY THIS CREATOR
MBPG: 5. Adjectives and adverbs
OTHER QUIZLET SETS
Bible 12 - Chapter 5 (November 6, 2019)
English Persuasive Devices - Riley's Copy
KIN 138 Chapter 6 Review