Upgrade to remove ads
social psychology chapter 3
Terms in this set (114)
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - sheer quantity of information
- A major challenge that we all face in making sense of the social world is the sheer quantity of information that is available at any given moment. To illustrate, imagine that a friend is coming over soon to watch a movie, and she's asked you to go on Netflix and find a "good one." Yikes. Now you're scanning through hundreds of movie titles, most of which you've never heard of. You could learn about each one if you read the plot summary and dozens of customer reviews. You might also want to consider your friend's tastes in movies, the nature of your relationship with this person, how long the movie is and what else you'd like to do tonight, and so on. If you were to weigh all of the relevant pieces of information, you would be so immersed in thought that you would die of starvation before you selected a movie.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - Arie Kruglanski's theory of lay epistemology
- What's important in this example is not the choice of a movie per se, but something more fundamental: the choice of when to stop thinking and reach a conclusion that feels certain . . . or certain enough. We make this same basic choice every moment that we navigate our social world. Whether we are forming an impression of a stranger or figuring out how we feel about a political issue, there is always more information that we could consider, but eventually we have to reach a conclusion and move on. According to Arie Kruglanski's theory of lay epistemology (1989, 2004), three motives influence this choice: The Need for Accurate Knowledge, The Need for Nonspecific Closure, and The Need for Specific Closure
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - Which of these three motives influences how a person thinks? It depends on his or her situation at the time (The Need for Accurate Knowledge)
- The need for accuracy is often active when there is a risk that a false judgment or a poor decision would have negative consequences for the self or others. Returning to our movie choice example, if you were intent on impressing your friend with your fine taste in films, and you felt that a poor movie choice would embarrass you, you would think long and hard about the relevant information until you felt confident that you were making the right choice. Or, to take another example, if during a presidential election season, one candidate advocates aggressive military responses, whereas the other promises peace, you might be particularly motivated to gain an accurate impression of each candidate before voting, because you believe that going to war would affect you and the people you care about.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - Which of these three motives influences how a person thinks? It depends on his or her situation at the time (The Need for Nonspecific Closure)
- The need for nonspecific closure usually takes priority in situations where thinking involves a lot of effort or is otherwise unpleasant. If we feel that we are under time pressure to make a decision, if we have a lot of things on our mind, or if we are simply exhausted from a long day at work, we will be more inclined to terminate the thinking process early and reach closure on a "good enough" conclusion. The first recommended movie that pops up might be the one you choose to watch.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - Which of these three motives influences how a person thinks? It depends on his or her situation at the time (The Need for Specific Closure)
- The need for specific closure comes into play when our prior beliefs and values are brought to mind, when those beliefs are central to our sense of meaning in life or personal worth, or perhaps especially when we feel that our beliefs are being challenged by contradictory information. For example, although the potential costs of going to war might activate the need for accurate knowledge, people's need for specific closure might nudge them to take military action because doing so aligns with their deeply held political views. This can lead them to dismiss strong evidence brought to light by a political opponent.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - Which motive influences a person's thinking also depends on his or her personality traits
- Which motive influences a person's thinking also depends on his or her personality traits. Some people have a high need for nonspecific closure, meaning that they seek and prefer simple and clear knowledge and feel especially uncomfortable when confronted with ambiguous or confusing situations (Thompson et al., 2001). By contrast, other people are more tolerant of complexity and ambiguity and are willing to gather more information and deliberate before arriving at a conclusion. In fact, they may view novelty, surprise, and uncertainty to be the very spice of life.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition: The Motives Behind Thinking - Keep these three motives in mind
- Keep these three motives in mind as you read the rest of this chapter—and indeed, this entire textbook—because you'll see how they influence social thought and behavior in various ways across a wide range of situations.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition
- WHY: Three basic motives influence thinking about the social world.
- The need for accurate knowledge, The need for nonspecific closure, The need for specific closure
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition - The need for accurate knowledge
- A desire to achieve an accurate understanding.
- Activated when being inaccurate could result in undesired outcomes.
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition - The need for nonspecific closure
- A desire for a simple, clear-cut understanding as opposed to confusion and ambiguity.
- Activated when thinking is effortful or unpleasant (e.g., when under time pressure).
Chapter 3 - The "Why" of Social Cognition - The need for specific closure
- A desire to understand something in a way that fits well with previously held beliefs and values.
- Activated when prior beliefs and values are brought to mind, central to one's sense of meaning in life or personal worth, or threatened by contradictory information.
Chapter 3 - social cognition is governed by two systems of thinking
- As we humans evolved, we developed neocortical structures in the brain that allow for high-level thought processes: consciousness, self-awareness, language, logic, and rationality. Yet we also have older brain structures, such as the limbic system, that we share with birds and reptiles. The result of having a hybrid brain is that social cognition is governed by two systems of thinking: a rational, and controlled way of thinking—the cognitive system; and an unconscious, intuitive, and automatic way of thinking—the experiential system (Epstein, 1994; Kahneman, 2011; Sloman, 1996). Depending on the individual and the circumstances, a person's thought and action can be produced primarily by one or the other system. The rise and fall of facilitated communication as a treatment for autism provides an example.
Chapter 3 - The Strange Case of Facilitated Communication - facilitated communication seemed a revolutionary way to unlock the inner world of loved ones who could not otherwise communicate their thoughts
- In the fall of 1991, Mark and Laura Storch were informed that their 14-year-old daughter, Jenny, had accused her father of repeated sexual abuse that her mother had ignored. Their daughter was promptly removed from their home while her parents spent the next 10 months fighting the charges, which turned out to be false (Berger, New York Times, February 1994). Her stunned parents were not only shocked by the specific allegations; they were also dumbfounded because their daughter was severely autistic and had little ability to communicate with others verbally! With no ability to share whatever thoughts she had, how had her teachers and aides tapped into Jenny's inner world? Jenny had apparently told of a history of abuse by using a technique known as facilitated communication, which allows individuals with severe forms of autism to spell out their internal thoughts with the help of an assistant. The assistant, called the facilitator, steadies the autistic person's arm to allow the individual to hunt and peck at letter keys. When first introduced in the United States in the early 1990s, facilitated communication seemed a revolutionary way to unlock the inner world of loved ones who could not otherwise communicate their thoughts.
Chapter 3 - The Strange Case of Facilitated Communication - Facilitated communication quickly aroused skepticism
- Facilitated communication quickly aroused skepticism, however, as children such as Jenny began sharing horrific stories of sexual abuse (Gorman, 1999). When the scientific community investigated the technique, study after study suggested that the thoughts being typed out were not those of the autistic child, but rather were those of the facilitator. In one experiment, two autistic middle schoolers were shown pictures of common objects and asked to type out what they saw (Vázquez, 1994). The experimenter could not see the pictures on the cards, and in half the trials, the facilitator was also prevented from seeing the cards. But in the other half of trials, the facilitator could see what was shown to the child. When their facilitator knew what the card depicted, both children typed out correct answers on all 10 of the trials. However, when the picture was shown only to the children and not to their facilitator, one child was unable to identify any of the pictures correctly, and the other got only 2 out of 10 correct. On the basis of this kind of evidence, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 1994 denouncing the validity of facilitated communication.
Chapter 3 - The Strange Case of Facilitated Communication - The rise and fall of this controversial technique was fraught with heartache and dashed hopes. But it also illuminated something rather interesting about human psychology
- The rise and fall of this controversial technique was fraught with heartache and dashed hopes. But it also illuminated something rather interesting about human psychology. In practically all of the cases where communicated messages were deemed written by the facilitator and not the child, the facilitators adamantly and fervently believed that they had not and could not have constructed the thoughts that had been typed out on paper. But the research clearly suggests that they had played an integral role. Although their conscious, cognitive system produced the belief that they were merely helping their pupil control his or her muscles, their unconscious, experiential system was likely guiding their pupil's finger toward each letter to spell out meaningful words, phrases, and ideas.
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - The core idea that
- The core idea that thinking is governed by two systems of thought that operate relatively independently of one another forms the basis for a number of theories that you'll encounter in this textbook. These theories are often referred to as dual process theories because they posit two ways of processing information. They have been developed to explain wide-ranging phenomena, from the attitudes we hold to the inferences we make about why other people act the way they do.
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - To appreciate the gist of these theories, let's analyze what you are doing right now
- To appreciate the gist of these theories, let's analyze what you are doing right now. You made a conscious intention to read your social psych textbook, and you're following through with it, pushing distracting thoughts about other matters out of your mind. You are able to consciously think about the concepts and ideas that you're reading about, and perhaps you are going further to elaborate on that information— that is, think it over, critique it, and compare it with your prior knowledge and experience. In each case, you are using the cognitive system to consciously direct your attention, guide your behavior, and make deliberate decisions.
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - At the same time that your cognitive system is busy with rational thinking, your experiential system operates in the background
- At the same time that your cognitive system is busy with rational thinking, your experiential system operates in the background, controlling your more automatic thoughts and behaviors. You might read a sentence about a lazy black dog yawning and lying down, and might find yourself yawning involuntarily, even though you don't feel the slightest bit tired. Or your favorite song might come on and, before you are consciously aware of it, you find yourself in a better mood. It is because these two systems can operate independently of each other that well-intentioned facilitators could guide their pupils' hands without being aware of doing so, but it's also why your unconscious mind can interpret your environment at the same time that your conscious focus is on your textbook.
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - The two systems have different ways of organizing information
- The two systems have different ways of organizing information. The cognitive system uses a system of rules to fit ideas into logical patterns. Much as your intuitive understanding of English grammar tells you that something is wrong with the statement "Store Jane to the goes," your cognitive system uses a type of grammar to detect when ideas fit and don't fit. In this way, it can think critically, plan behavior, and make deliberate decisions. By contrast, the experiential system is guided by automatic associations among stimuli, concepts, and behaviors that have been repeatedly associated through our personal life history of learning. Because of the vast array of information in the world, our brains have evolved to learn from repetition. After repeatedly observing that dark clouds in the sky are often followed by rain, we automatically form an association between clouds and rain. The experiential system organizes these associations into an elaborate network of knowledge.
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - heuristics
- Because the experiential system stores a large collection of well-learned associations, it can be used to make rapid, "good enough" judgments and decisions at times when using the cognitive system would be too slow and effortful (Epstein, 1990). These mental short cuts, or rules of thumb, are called heuristics. One simple heuristic that people utilize automatically is that "more is better."
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - Imagine that you could win money by closing your eyes and picking a red marble from a jar filled with many colored marbles
- Imagine that you could win money by closing your eyes and picking a red marble from a jar filled with many colored marbles. Let's say you can choose to draw a marble from either a small jar with one red marble and nine marbles of other colors or from a large jar with 10 red marbles and 90 marbles of other colors. Which jar would you choose? Intuitively, it seems as if the chances are better with more possible winning marbles, even though statistically, and therefore rationally, this is not true: The chances of winning the money are equal for the two jars. Yet a large majority of people choose the large jar with 10 red marbles rather than the small jar with one (Kirkpatrick & Epstein, 1992).
Chapter 3 - Dual Process Theories - The marble-choice scenario helps us to see the intuitive appeal of heuristics, but it raises an important question
- The marble-choice scenario helps us to see the intuitive appeal of heuristics, but it raises an important question: Do heuristics influence judgment when the real-world stakes are high? The answer is "yes." For example, imagine that a deadly disease is threatening a small town of 600 people, and public health officials are considering two different treatment plans. If Treatment A is adopted, 200 lives will be saved. If Treatment B is adopted, there's a 1/3 probability that all 600 people will be saved, and a 2/3 probability that no one will be saved. Which would you choose? If you are like most participants asked this question by the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his collaborator, Amos Tversky (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981), you would probably choose Treatment A. But now consider the following version of the same problem: If Treatment A is adopted, 400 people will die. If Treatment B is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die and a 2/3 probability that all 600 people will die. Would you now prefer Treatment B? If you take a close look at these two framings of the issue, they are statistically identical choices. But people's preferences change dramatically when they are cued to think about what would be lost compared with what might be gained. When the question is framed the second way, in terms of lives lost, the vast majority of people prefer to take the chance with Treatment B where there is some chance of avoiding any loss of life. Our experiential minds are more readily swayed by thinking about what we might lose than by thinking about what we might gain. It takes a much closer and more rational consideration of the odds to realize that these choices are the same.
Chapter 3 - Implicit and Explicit Attitudes - If we have two systems for thinking, does that mean we have two ways of evaluating something as good or bad?
- Attitudes are emotional reactions to people, objects, and ideas. If we have two systems for thinking, does that mean we have two ways of evaluating something as good or bad? The answer is "yes" according to dual process theories of attitudes (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006; Nosek, 2007). According to these theories, implicit attitudes are based on automatic associations that make up the experiential system. Some automatic associations can be passed on genetically through evolution (such as an automatic fear response to snakes; Öhman & Mineka, 2003), but most are learned from our culture (such as a negative attitude toward eating pork or fried ants). By contrast, explicit attitudes are often reported consciously through the cognitive system.
Chapter 3 - Implicit and Explicit Attitudes - Because we have no direct conscious access to our experiential system, measuring people's implicit attitudes requires a bit of cleverness
- Because we have no direct conscious access to our experiential system, measuring people's implicit attitudes requires a bit of cleverness. One popular task developed by Tony Greenwald and colleagues is the implicit association test (Greenwald et al., 1998). We'll be describing this task in more detail in chapter 8, where we look more closely at how attitudes are formed and change. We'll also return to it in chapter 10 because the study of implicit attitudes has been extremely important in our understanding of prejudice. For now, the point to remember is that this task measures the degree to which a person mentally associates two concepts (e.g., "flowers" and "pleasant"), essentially by measuring how quickly she or he can lump together examples of Concept 1 (rose, petunia, tulip) alongside examples of Concept 2 (happy, lucky, freedom). If you are like the average person (and not an entomologist), you'd probably be quicker to throw these flower and pleasant words in the same mental file folder than to group the same pleasant words with insect names such as flea, locust, and maggot. It's this difference in speed that tells us something about your implicit attitude toward flowers relative to insects, which may or may not be the same as what you would report explicitly on a questionnaire.
Chapter 3 - Implicit and Explicit Attitudes - If the cognitive and experiential systems can both produce attitudes, and if these two systems operate independently of one another, does that mean that the same person can have different attitudes toward the same thing?
- If the cognitive and experiential systems can both produce attitudes, and if these two systems operate independently of one another, does that mean that the same person can have different attitudes toward the same thing? The answer, again, is "yes." To illustrate, when volunteers in one study (Nosek, 2005) were asked whether they prefer dogs or cats, what they consciously said—that is, their explicit attitude— was that they prefer dogs. But their responses on a reaction-time measure revealed that, at an implicit level, they associated cats with good more than dogs with good (perhaps because cats seldom have a bad reputation as dangerous animals). People's explicit attitudes toward dogs and cats were correlated positively with their implicit attitudes, but only moderately so, suggesting that implicit and explicit attitudes can coexist at different levels of consciousness. Not only can they coexist, they can kick in under certain circumstances to influence how we act. Your explicit attitude might dictate which kind of pet you choose to adopt from the local humane society (a very conscious decision), but it's your implicit attitude that probably accounts for the automatic startle response you might have if you encounter a German Shepherd, rather than a tabby cat, in a dark alley.
Chapter 3 - Implicit and Explicit Attitudes - some attitudes are pretty similar when assessed implicitly or explicitly
- some attitudes are pretty similar when assessed implicitly or explicitly (Nosek, 2007). For example, in a study on judging political parties, the correlation of about .75 suggests that people's reported party preferences on a questionnaire correlate quite strongly with their automatic evaluations of Republicans and Democrats. Other attitudes can be quite distinct, so the preference people say they have for family versus career might be only weakly correlated (about .30) with their implicit attitude for one over the other. Our implicit and explicit attitudes are more likely to align when we feel strongly about the issue in question, have given it a lot of thought, and feel comfortable expressing our attitudes (Nosek, 2007). On the other hand, when we are explicitly undecided about an issue, our implicit attitudes predict our later explicit preferences (Galdi et al., 2008). It seems that our experiential system is a bit of a backseat driver at times, whispering directions when our cognitive system is not sure which way to turn.
Chapter 3 - Automaticity and Controlled Processes - we can automatize certain behaviors
- The example of the German Shepherd in the dark alley illustrates how the experiential system guides simple behaviors such as automatic reactions to the environment. But this system guides behavior in more sophisticated ways, as well. In particular, it can control the behaviors necessary to reach our goals. By building up mental associations through routine interactions with the physical and social environment, we can automatize certain behaviors, meaning that we can perform those behaviors without devoting much conscious attention to what we are doing. It is as though we were on autopilot. Think about how you can brush your teeth, drive home from work, or go through the grocery checkout lane without much thought. Such automatization of behaviors is highly adaptive, because it allows us to accomplish goals while saving our mental energy.
Chapter 3 - Automaticity and Controlled Processes - what happens when we encounter a novel challenge that our automatized routine is not prepared to handle?
- But what happens when we encounter a novel challenge that our automatized routine is not prepared to handle? Imagine that you are brushing your teeth with your electronic toothbrush, just as you've done every day for the past few years, and all of a sudden the toothbrush stops working. Your experiential system probably won't be able to handle this situation, because it does not have a set of well-learned associations about toothbrush malfunction. Fortunately, the cognitive system is designed to override the experiential system in these situations, applying controlled processes of reasoning and decision making to solve unexpected problems and help you reach your goals. However, three conditions must be met in order for the cognitive system to successfully override the experiential system: We are aware, motivated, and we have the ability.
Chapter 3 - Automaticity and Controlled Processes - three conditions must be met in order for the cognitive system to successfully override the experiential system
- However, three conditions must be met in order for the cognitive system to successfully override the experiential system:
- We are aware that controlled processes are necessary either to get the job done or to counteract automatic processes that are not working as they should. For example, you consciously have to remind yourself to stop by the drugstore to pick up a new toothbrush battery because your automatic tendency will be to drive straight home.
- We are motivated to exert control over our thoughts and behaviors. You need to care enough about getting your toothbrush fixed to change your usual habit of driving home.
- We have the ability to consider our thoughts and actions at a more conscious level, because controlled processes require more mental effort. Sometimes we do not have enough cognitive resources to engage controlled ways of thinking. In these cases, the need for nonspecific closure kicks in, usually leading us to think and act in ways that are familiar and automatic. For example, after a long, exhausting day studying at the library, you may be more likely to fall back on unconscious routines and habits (such as driving straight home) rather than working toward new, consciously chosen goals (such as getting that new toothbrush battery) even if you're aware that you need to remind yourself and are motivated to do so.
Chapter 3 - Automaticity and Controlled Processes - By knowing that these three conditions must be in place for the cognitive system to operate, researchers have a powerful way of testing dual process theories in the laboratory
- By knowing that these three conditions must be in place for the cognitive system to operate, researchers have a powerful way of testing dual process theories in the laboratory. If the cognitive system's style of deliberate, effortful thinking requires awareness, motivation, and ability, then when people are put into situations where one or more of these conditions is missing, the cognitive system will lose its control over thinking and behavior. For example, if people are asked to memorize a long series of numbers, they lose the ability to focus attention on difficult decisions. In these situations, the experiential system will take over, because it can operate automatically without awareness, motivation, and ability; hence, people will tend to think and act more on the basis of automatic associations, heuristics, and gut-level attitudes. Throughout this book we will see how researchers have used this reasoning to test dual process theories of diverse phenomena.
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways
- Although it is tempting to view the conscious, rational cognitive system as the entire basis of human intelligence, and the experiential unconscious as more primitive, in actuality the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways.
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways - the needs for accurate knowledge, clear knowledge, and preferred knowledge
- For one, the basic motives that we said earlier guide social cognition—the needs for accurate knowledge, clear knowledge, and preferred knowledge—are largely unconscious. People rarely seem to be aware that these motivations are influencing their judgments and behavior.
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways - during sleep
- Second, during sleep, our cognitive system shuts down, but our unconscious stays busy consolidating memories—that is, organizing and solidifying what we've learned and experienced (Diekelmann & Born, 2010).
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways - mundane matters tends to precede moments of creative insight
- Third, studies of ground-breaking artists and scientists indicate that after these individuals engage in extensive conscious deliberation on some problem or issue, an incubation period in which conscious attention is shifted to more mundane matters tends to precede moments of creative insight, which seem to just pop into consciousness out of nowhere, or more precisely, out of the unconscious (Cattell, 1971; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Wallas, 1926).
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways - intuition plays a critical role in good decision making
- Fourth, intuition plays a critical role in good decision making. It was long believed that successful decision making relies on a conscious, systematic, and deliberative process of weighing costs and benefits. In choosing a college, you might have been encouraged to weigh the pros and cons of each school, scrupulously comparing features such as the availability of student aid and the student-to-faculty ratio. A sense of how a campus feels to you when you visit might seem irrelevant, and you might be encouraged to ignore it and focus instead on the facts. But research is beginning to show that unconscious, intuitive processes can steer us toward the best decisions in an automatic way. For example, our unconscious can intuitively sense when information is logically coherent, and it responds with a burst of positive affect (Topolinski & Strack, 2009; Winkielman & Cacioppo, 2001; Winkielman et al., 2007).
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - we fail to listen to our unconscious feelings when forming attitudes and making decisions
- In many cases, though, we fail to listen to our unconscious feelings when forming attitudes and making decisions. One reason for this is that we often have difficulty verbalizing—that is, putting into words—why we like or dislike something. In chapter 1 (pp. 11-12) we described a study by Nisbett and Wilson (1977) that made this point by revealing the factors that influenced shoppers' stocking preferences without their conscious awareness. Because we have so little internal access to what actually determines our emotional reactions, when we are deciding things such as what fruit jam or poster we prefer or even how we feel about a relationship partner or a college, a conscious consideration of what we like or don't like will lead us to focus on factors that are easy to verbalize. And yet those factors may not reflect our feelings deep down.
Chapter 3 - when we think consciously about why we hold an attitude toward something, we often come up with a story that sounds reasonable but that does a poorer job than our gut feelings at predicting later behavior
- In fact, when we think consciously about why we hold an attitude toward something, we often come up with a story that sounds reasonable but that does a poorer job than our gut feelings at predicting later behavior (Wilson et al., 1989). In one study (Wilson & Kraft, 1993), some participants were first asked to analyze the reasons that they felt the way they did about their current romantic relationship, and were then asked to rate their overall satisfaction with the relationship. Another group of participants did not do a reasoned analysis; they just rated their overall satisfaction on the basis of their gut feelings. You might think that the people led to analyze their reasons would figure out how they really felt about the relationship, so that their satisfaction ratings would predict whether their relationship stayed together or not. But the results revealed the exact opposite. It was the people asked to rate their satisfaction based on their gut feelings whose satisfaction ratings predicted whether they were still dating that partner several months later. As for the people asked to think hard about why they felt what they felt, their satisfaction ratings did not predict the outcome of their relationship.
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - the unconscious is quite smart in at least five ways - somatic marker hypothesis
- A fifth way that the unconscious is smart is that our unconscious evaluations are essential for good judgment. According to Damasio's (2001) somatic marker hypothesis, there are certain somatic (i.e., bodily) changes that people experience as an emotion. These somatic changes become automatically associated with the positive or negative contexts for that emotion. When people encounter those contexts again, the somatic changes become a marker or a cue for what will happen next, helping to shape their decisions even without any conscious understanding of what they are doing. We can see this when we compare the decisions made by healthy adults with those made by adults who have suffered damage to areas of the brain responsible for social judgments, particularly the ventromedial sector of the prefrontal cortex.
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - Participants are given a gambling task in which their choice of cards from four different decks can either win or lose them money
- Here's an example of a typical study. Participants are given a gambling task in which their choice of cards from four different decks can either win or lose them money. Two of the decks are risky; they can give big payouts, but choosing from them repeatedly over the course of the game is a losing strategy. The other two decks give more modest payouts, but the losses are milder as well, and a normal participant eventually learns to stick to these less risky options. Patients with ventromedial damage to the prefrontal cortex, however, don't learn to avoid the risky decks. Why do these people continue to make high-risk decisions that will lose them money in the end? Part of the reason is that they don't show any fear that their choices will have negative consequences. Bechara and colleagues (1996) assessed participants' skin conductance as a measure of arousal just before deciding which deck to choose from. Normal participants showed elevated arousal prior to each pick. They were anticipating that their choice could be a bad one, and as such, were more likely to learn from their mistakes. Ventromedial patients did not show evidence of this increased arousal, and without that somatic marker to warn them against the riskier decks, they chose from them over and over again as their money dwindled away!
Chapter 3 - The Smart Unconscious - We don't need to be consciously aware of how our brain is interpreting our emotional associations for those emotions to aid our decision making
- We don't need to be consciously aware of how our brain is interpreting our emotional associations for those emotions to aid our decision making. In one study (Bechara et al., 1997), 30% of normal participants were unable to explain why they chose cards from one deck more or less than from another. They had no conscious understanding of the patterns that had shaped their decision making over the course of the task, yet they showed the same pattern of improved performance as the participants who had developed a clear hunch that two of the decks were riskier than the others.
Chapter 3 - The "How" of Social Cognition - Social cognition is governed by two systems of thinking
- Social cognition is governed by two systems of thinking: a cognitive system that is conscious, rational, and controlled; and an experiential system that is unconscious, intuitive, and automatic.
Chapter 3 - The "How" of Social Cognition - The two ways of thinking influence attitudes and behavior
- Implicit attitudes are unconscious, automatic, and based on learned associations (often called heuristics). Conscious, explicit attitudes are relatively independent of implicit attitudes. Hence, the same person can hold opposing implicit and explicit attitudes toward the same thing.
- Routine behaviors can become automatic, but in novel situations, the cognitive system takes over to make deliberate, reasoned judgments and decisions.
- The cognitive system requires awareness, motivation, and ability. If these conditions are not met, the cognitive system is interrupted, whereas the experiential system is relatively unimpeded.
Chapter 3 - The "How" of Social Cognition - The unconscious can be smart
- The unconscious does "smart" things such as consolidating memories and guiding decision making.
Chapter 3 - Categories
- So far we've outlined the broad motives and systems that guide our thinking about the social world. Let's turn now to consider some of the more specific thought processes that people use to understand the world. The first thing to notice is how quickly and effortlessly the mind classifies stimuli into categories. Categories are like mental containers into which people place things that are similar to each other. Or, more precisely, even if two things are quite different from one another (two unique individuals, for instance), when people place them in the same category ("frat boys"), they think about those two items as though they were the same. This makes life easier.
Chapter 3 - To appreciate what categories can do, stop and look around your surroundings. What do you see?
- To appreciate what categories can do, stop and look around your surroundings. What do you see? As for this author, I'm sitting at the dining room table in my house. I see my laptop in front of me and a stack of books nearby, along with my half-eaten lunch. There are pictures hanging on the walls, a plant in a corner of the room, and our pet dog near my feet (probably hoping for some of the lunch). Just within this 4-foot radius of my world, things are already pretty complex. I don't have the mental capacity to attend to and process every aspect of the environment, so I group stimuli together into broad categories. For example, although each of these books is unique, for now I lump them into the category books; in fact, for added convenience I can lump the books along with those pens and used tea bags under the broader category things on my desk that I don't have to deal with at the moment. If people didn't group things into categories of objects and ideas, they would be utterly and hopelessly overwhelmed by what William James called the "blooming, buzzing confusion" that they first experience as newborn infants before they develop categories (James, 1890, p. 462).
Chapter 3 - schema
- Categorization is an interesting process in its own right, but it is just the starting point of our mind's active meaning making. That's because as soon as people classify a stimulus as an instance of a category, their minds quickly access knowledge about that category, including beliefs about the category's attributes, expectations about what members of that category are like, and plans for how to interact with it, if at all. All of this knowledge is stored in memory in a mental structure called a schema. For example, if you are at the library and you categorize a person behind the desk as a librarian, you instantly access a schema for the category librarian that contains beliefs about which traits are generally shared by members of that group (e.g., intelligence), theories about how librarians' traits relate to other aspects of the world (e.g., librarians probably do not enjoy extreme sports), and examples of other librarians you have known. Bringing to mind schemas allow the person to "go beyond the information given" (Bruner, 1957), elaborating on the information that strikes their senses with what they already know (or think they know).
Chapter 3 - impressions
- Schemas that represent knowledge about other people are called impressions. Your schema of the cyclist Lance Armstrong might include physical characteristics (athletic, good looking), personality traits (charismatic, courageous), and other beliefs about him (philanthropist, cancer survivor, stripped of titles after doping scandal). Similarly, we can also have a schema for a category of people (e.g., sports superstars), called a stereotype. You can see that your impression of Armstrong contains many traits (e.g., wealthy, athletic, courageous) that are also part of your stereotype for sports superstars. Finally, as we will discuss in chapter 5, we also have a schema about ourselves—our self-concept.
Chapter 3 - the content of our schemas consists of a pattern of learned associations
- Regardless of their type, the content of our schemas consists of a pattern of learned associations. These patterns of associations can change and expand over time. You first might have learned about Lance Armstrong as an incredible athlete and cancer survivor and only later had to update this positive view of him after repeatedly encountering media reports about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, which eventually led to his being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Some of our associations with Armstrong might be stronger than others, because we more frequently think about or hear about Armstrong in terms of those aspects. The learned associations stored in our schemas profoundly shape our perception, judgment, and behavior.
Chapter 3 - it's also important to realize that schemas are not passively filled up with information from the outside
- But it's also important to realize that schemas are not passively filled up with information from the outside. Because of our need for specific closure—again, the motive to maintain particular beliefs and attitudes—we often tailor our schemas to include only some pieces of knowledge. Think about it this way: On your computer you probably have file folders that contain documents, pictures, and sound files that are related in some way, and you label those file folders accordingly, such as "Social Psychology Class" and "Summer Vacation." The schemas stored in your long-term memory are like those file folders in the sense that they contain all the bits of knowledge you have about a given category, from Nazis and pedophiles to doorknobs and stickers. But the similarities end there. Computer file folders usually don't magically acquire or lose documents, and they never insist that you open this picture and get nervous if you open up that picture. But that is exactly what schemas do, even without our conscious awareness. For example, if you are the president of the Lance Armstrong fan club, your schema for Lance likely will emphasize the bits of knowledge that flatter the athlete (great cyclist, charity sponsor) and will downplay anything that casts him in a negative light.
Chapter 3 - Where Do Schemas Come From? Cultural Sources of Knowledge - Let's take a closer look at where we acquire the knowledge that makes up our schemas
- Let's take a closer look at where we acquire the knowledge that makes up our schemas. The example of Lance Armstrong pointed to various sources of knowledge. In some cases, we come into direct contact with people, events, and ideas and form concepts on the basis of that personal experience. But looking at this from the cultural perspective, we also learn a great deal about our social world indirectly, from parents, teachers, peers, books, newspapers, magazines, television, movies, and the Internet. A lot of our general knowledge comes during childhood from the culture in which we are raised. As children learn language and are told stories, they are taught concepts such as honesty and courage, good and evil, love and hate. From this learning, people develop ideas about what people in the world are like, the events that matter in life, and the meaning of their own thoughts and feelings, among other fundamental lessons.
Chapter 3 - Where Do Schemas Come From? Cultural Sources of Knowledge - A considerable amount of our cultural knowledge is transmitted to us by our parents, but also by peers, teachers, and mass media sources
- A considerable amount of our cultural knowledge is transmitted to us by our parents, but also by peers, teachers, and mass media sources. For most children in industrialized nations, television and movies provide scripts of situations (workplace interactions: Mad Men; romance: the Twilight series), schemas of types of people (villain, hero, femme fatale, nerd, ingénue) and stereotypes of groups of people (gay men are effeminate; grandmothers are kind; Asians are martial artists) before the child has firsthand experience with such situations, people, and groups. And children intuitively sense that television and books provide a preview of the next steps in their lives: Grade school kids tend to like shows and books about middle school, and middle school kids tend to like shows and books about high school.
Chapter 3 - Where Do Schemas Come From? Cultural Sources of Knowledge - the basic way that we categorize information and build schemas is thought to be culturally universal, but as we have described it here, the content of those schemas and how they are organized is shaped by our cultural experiences
- Finally, the basic way that we categorize information and build schemas is thought to be culturally universal, but as we have described it here, the content of those schemas and how they are organized is shaped by our cultural experiences. This can result in cultural differences in the meaning that concepts can sometimes have. For example, kids who grow up in a rural Native American culture—which values connections with nature—have a concept of "animal" that is most closely linked to those species that become part of their daily lives (Winkler-Rhoades et al., 2010). In contrast, urban-dwelling European American kids asked to list animals bring to mind exotic species such as elephants and lions that populate their picture books. Here we see the both groups develop a schema for the same general category, but the content of that schema differs in important ways, depending on the physical and social environment in which people carry out their daily lives.
Chapter 3 - Rumors and Gossip - Rumors and gossip are two other common sources of knowledge contained in our schemas
- Rumors and gossip are two other common sources of knowledge contained in our schemas. Much of what we learn about other people or events comes from news passed from one person to another. But beware. When information is passed from person to person to person before you get it, it tends to be distorted in various ways.
Chapter 3 - Rumors and Gossip - as people perceive and relay information, it is altered a bit as it is filtered by each person's schemas and motive for specific closure
- For one, as people perceive and relay information, it is altered a bit as it is filtered by each person's schemas and motive for specific closure. Specifically, transmitted information can be biased by processes called sharpening and leveling. Think about how you tell a story to a friend. You're probably going to emphasize the main features of the story, which is called sharpening, and leave out a lot of details, which is called leveling. The main features are more memorable than the details, and they also make for a more interesting tale. An unfortunate consequence of this bias is that people hearing about a person or event, rather than gaining knowledge firsthand, will tend to form an oversimplified, extreme impression of that person or event (Baron et al., 1997; Gilovich, 1987).
Chapter 3 - Rumors and Gossip - Robert Baron and colleagues (1997) had a participant watch a videotape in which a young man described unintentionally getting drunk at a party, getting involved in a fight, and getting into a subsequent car accident
- For example, Robert Baron and colleagues (1997) had a participant watch a videotape in which a young man described unintentionally getting drunk at a party, getting involved in a fight, and getting into a subsequent car accident. The man noted this was uncharacteristic of him, that he was egged on by friends, and that he regretted his actions. The participant rated the man on various positive and negative traits. Then the participant, now in the role of storyteller, was asked to speak into a tape recorder to describe the man's story. Listeners then heard the audiotape and rated the man on the same traits. The listeners rated the man more negatively than the teller did. These effects seem to result both from a tendency of storytellers to leave out mitigating factors and complexities and a tendency of listeners to attend only to the central aspects of the stories they hear.
Chapter 3 - Rumors and Gossip - our stereotypes of groups can also make us biased in our recall and retelling of information
- In addition to this tendency to tell simplified stories, our stereotypes of groups can also make us biased in our recall and retelling of information. Gordon Allport and Joseph Postman (1947) demonstrated this back in the 1940s in a study involving White American participants. They briefly showed a person a picture depicting a scene on the New York subway involving a White man standing, holding a razor, and pointing his finger at a Black man (FIGURE 3.6). They then had that person describe the scene to another person who had not seen the picture. That second person then described the scene to a third person, and so on, until the information had been conveyed to a seventh person. More than half the time, that seventh person reported that the scene involved the Black man, rather than the White man, holding the razor. So when we get our information filtered through lots of people, it's pretty likely that prevalent schemas (such as stereotypes about a person's group) have biased the information.
Chapter 3 - Mass Media Biases - we don't get information only from having it told to us directly by others; we also learn a great deal from the stories we see and hear in the media
- Of course, we don't get information only from having it told to us directly by others; we also learn a great deal from the stories we see and hear in the media. Just as rumors and gossip can distort the truth, media portrayals seldom are realistic accounts of what life is like, although they do provide vivid portrayals of possible scenarios. Think about your own schemas or scripts about dating and romantic love. Your earliest ideas about such matters probably came from fairy tales, television shows, the Internet, and movies. Unfortunately, these media offer biased views of many of these matters. For example, they tend to portray romantic relationships and love in oversimplified ways; to portray men, women, and ethnic groups in stereotypic ways; and to show a lot of violence (Dixon & Linz, 2000). The latter feature may explain why people who watch a lot of television think that crime and violence are far more prevalent in the world than they actually are (Shanahan & Morgan, 1999).
Chapter 3 - Mass Media Biases - News programming is based on reality, and so people tend to assume it paints a fairly realistic, accurate, and less biased picture of events and people
- News programming is based on reality, and so people tend to assume it paints a fairly realistic, accurate, and less biased picture of events and people. But the news is created at least as much as it is reported. Those who produce the news choose which events and people to report about, and what perspective on the events to provide. These decisions are heavily influenced by concerns with television ratings and newspaper sales, and by the political and social preferences of those who own and sponsor the television programs, radio shows, newspapers, and magazines that report the news. And just as Allport and Postman showed over six decades ago, racial stereotypes can play a role as well. Just consider the two different descriptions of similar actions by people dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans in 2005. Both images show people leaving a grocery store and wading through floodwaters with food and supplies; the White people are described as "finding" food, whereas the Black individual is described as "looting."
Chapter 3 - How Do Schemas Work? Accessibility and Priming of Schemas - The person's current situation plays a major role in activating particular schemas
- The person's current situation plays a major role in activating particular schemas. If the characteristics of a social gathering across the street—loud music, alcohol in abundance—lead Yana to categorize it as a party, she will access her party schema, which gives her information she can use to figure out how else to think about this event, what inferences to make ("This ongoing noise will likely interfere with my social psych reading"), and what actions to take ("I should go to the library"). Of course, the more fine grained a person's categories are, the more specific will be the schemas activated. Returning to the example, if Yana has different categories for a game-day keg party and a standard keg party, she can access different schemas in order to fine-tune her understanding of the event and her response to it. ("It's a game-day keg party, so if our team loses the party will probably be over by 8 o'clock.")
Chapter 3 - How Do Schemas Work? Accessibility and Priming of Schemas - Accessibility
- Accessibility refers to the ease with which people can bring an idea into consciousness and use it in thinking. When a schema is highly accessible, the salience of that schema is increased: it is activated in the person's mental system, even if she is not consciously aware of it, and it tends to color her perceptions and behavior (Higgins, 1996). We just saw that the characteristics of the person's current situation can increase the salience of a schema, making it more accessible for thinking and acting.
Chapter 3 - How Do Schemas Work? Accessibility and Priming of Schemas - Priming
- Priming occurs when something in the environment activates an idea that increases the salience of a schema. This happens because the information that we store in memory is connected in associative networks (FIGURE 3.8). These networks are tools that psychologists use to describe how pieces of information stored in a person's memory are linked to other bits of information (Anderson, 1996; Collins & Loftus, 1975). These links result from semantic associations and experiential associations. Semantic associations result when two concepts are similar in meaning or belong to the same category. The words nice and kind, for example, have similar meanings; the words dog and cat both refer to household pets. Thus, we might expect them to be linked in a person's associative network. Experiential associations occur when one concept has been experienced close in time or space to another concept. For example, for many people who consume their fair share of television or live in high-crime areas, guns are experientially associated with violence. Through these two kinds of mental links, priming, or "turning on," one idea will bring to mind other ideas that are closely linked in a person's associative network, but will be less likely to bring to mind ideas that are not strongly linked.
Chapter 3 - How Do Schemas Work? Accessibility and Priming of Schemas - Chronically accessible schemas
- In addition to the immediate environment and priming, the person's personality determines how accessible certain schemas are. Chronically accessible schemas are those that represent information that is important to an individual, relevant to how they think of themselves, or used frequently (Higgins, 2012; Markus, 1977). Such schemas are very easily brought to mind by even the most subtle reminder. For example, Mary is really interested in environmental issues, whereas Wanda is attuned to contemporary fashion. Mary is more likely to notice a hybrid car in the parking lot or express disdain over the plethora of plastic cups lying around at a party. Meanwhile, Wanda has her fashion radar working and her associated constructs chronically accessible, so she may dislike the tacky cups and be more likely than Mary to notice that Cynthia arrived in last season's designer shoes. Even though they are in the same situation, the differences in what schemas are chronically accessible for Mary and Wanda lead to very different perceptions and judgments of the scene.
Chapter 3 - How Do Schemas Work? Accessibility and Priming of Schemas - People are also likely to interpret others' behavior in terms of their own chronically accessible schemas
- People are also likely to interpret others' behavior in terms of their own chronically accessible schemas (Higgins et al., 1982). If you read a biography of Herman Melville and if honesty is a chronically accessible trait for you, you would be likely to have a good memory for incidents in Melville's life that pertain to honesty, and your overall impression of Melville will be largely colored by how honest he appears to have been. On the other hand, if kindness is chronically accessible for you, his incidents of kindness or unkindness would be particularly memorable and influence your attitudes.
Chapter 3 - How Do Schemas Work? Accessibility and Priming of Schemas - Situational and chronic influences on schema accessibility also can work together to influence our perceptions of the world
- Situational and chronic influences on schema accessibility also can work together to influence our perceptions of the world. For example, after witnessing a fellow student smile as a professor praises her class paper, students in one study were more likely to rate her as conceited if they had very recently been primed with words related to the schema arrogance, but this effect was most pronounced for students who showed high chronic accessibility for the schema conceitedness (Higgins & Brendl, 1995). In other words, a certain situation or stimulus may prime particular schemas for one person but not for another, depending on which ideas are chronically accessible to each (Bargh et al., 1986).
Chapter 3 - Priming and Social Perception - Higgins and colleagues (1977) suggests that your impression will depend on the traits that are accessible to you before you met him
- A study by Higgins and colleagues (1977) suggests that your impression will depend on the traits that are accessible to you before you met him. Participants in this study were told they would be completing two unrelated studies on perception and reading comprehension, but in actuality the tasks were related. In the "first" study, participants performed a task in which they identified colors while reading words (commonly referred to as a Stroop task). In this task, you might see the word bold printed in blue letters, and your job would be to identify the color blue. This task gives the researchers a way to make certain ideas accessible for some participants but not for others. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to read words with negative implications (e.g., reckless). The other half of the participants read words with positive implications (e.g., adventurous). In the "second" study, participants were asked to read information about a person named Donald who takes part in various high-risk activities, and to answer some questions about their impression of Donald. You can see from FIGURE 3.9 that the words participants were primed with during task 1 had a dramatic effect on the impressions they formed of Donald. Those participants who had previously read negative words pertaining to recklessness were likely to form more negative impressions of Donald, whereas those participants who had previously read positive words pertaining to adventurousness tended to view Donald more positively. Their impressions differed despite the fact that they were presented with identical information about Donald! What led to these different impressions, of course, were the different ideas that were primed in the participants before they read about him. This finding suggests that our impressions of others are shaped by salient schemas.
Priming and Behavior - social behavior can be influenced by recently primed schemas without the person being consciously aware of their influence
- Just like impressions, social behavior can be influenced by recently primed schemas without the person being consciously aware of their influence. Consider this scenario. You show up to participate in a psychology study, thinking that it concerns language proficiency. You are asked to complete a task in which you try to unscramble words to make sentences. You're told to use four of the five words presented. You start on the task and are presented with they/her/bother/see/usually. So you start scribbling something like "they usually bother her" and then proceed to the next set of words. Unknown to you, you have been randomly assigned to be in a condition in which words related to the schema rudeness have been primed (notice the word bother). Other participants were presented with neutral words or words related to the schema politeness (e.g., respect).
- After completing a series of such sentences, you take your packet to the experimenter to find out what you need to do next. The problem is that the experimenter is stuck in conversation with another person, and the conversation doesn't seem likely to end anytime soon. Think about a time when you are in a hurry but have to wait your turn. Would you wait patiently or try to interrupt others so that you can get on your way? Would other thoughts in your mind influence your behavior?
- Study results suggest that they would (Bargh et al., 1996). When no category was primed, 38% of participants interrupted within a 10-minute time frame. But among those primed with rudeness, 64% were too impatient to wait that long, whereas only 17% of those primed with politeness-related words interrupted. Schemas that are primed in one context can shape behavior in a different context.
Chapter 3 - The Role of the Unconscious - Why are priming studies useful?
- Why are priming studies useful? They illustrate how our experiential system can operate behind the scenes, influencing our everyday thought and behavior outside of our awareness. Indeed, psychologists from Freud (1923/1961b) to Wilson (2002) have made the point that consciousness is the mere tip of an iceberg: We are continually influenced by features of the environment and mental processes without being aware of them.
Chapter 3 - The Role of the Unconscious - Over the years there have been a number of controversial media accounts of subliminal priming
- Of course, this idea is not completely new in popular culture. Over the years there have been a number of controversial media accounts of subliminal priming. For example, in 1957, a movie theater proprietor claimed to have boosted popcorn and soda sales at concession stands by presenting subliminal messages encouraging patrons to visit the snack bar. This was later discovered to be false because no such messages were actually presented, but it certainly raised the ire of many moviegoers at the time. In 1990, the heavy metal band Judas Priest was sued over purportedly presenting subliminal messages in one of their songs that encouraged a young man to commit suicide.
Chapter 3 - The Role of the Unconscious - Although these examples turned out to be groundless, subliminal priming is a reality.
- Although these examples turned out to be groundless, subliminal priming is a reality. It's just that now we understand how and when subliminal primes are likely to influence thought and behavior. Part of this development is owing to advances in technology, because we now have the means to present information (such as words and pictures) precisely long enough to activate them in the mind without bringing them into conscious attention. (In most experiments, exposures range from 10 to 100 milliseconds.)
Chapter 3 - The Role of the Unconscious - We can see the effect of such subliminal priming in a study by Bargh and Pietromonaco (1982)
- We can see the effect of such subliminal priming in a study by Bargh and Pietromonaco (1982). They had participants read about a person named Donald (no relation to the earlier mountain climber) who refused to pay his rent until the landlord painted the apartment. Prior to reading about Donald, participants completed a computer task in which they were asked to identify where on the screen a brief flash appeared. Unknown to participants, directly following the flash a word was presented for 100 milliseconds to the periphery of their visual focus, followed by a string of "XXX"s that served to cover (or mask) the stimulus. Participants were shown 100 flashes. If participants were exposed to a lot of words related to hostility (curse, punch), they judged Donald to be more aggressive than did participants exposed to only a few or no hostility-related words. Yet no participant reported being aware of having seen the words, which suggests the power of subliminal priming.
Chapter 3 - The Role of the Unconscious - We now also have a much better theoretical grasp of how subliminal priming works, and therefore when it will—and will not—be likely to influence thought and behavior.
- We now also have a much better theoretical grasp of how subliminal priming works, and therefore when it will—and will not—be likely to influence thought and behavior. We now know that subliminal primes do not lead people automatically and robotically to do whatever it is they are told to do, such as buy a soda or commit suicide. Rather, the concept of accessibility that we've been discussing suggests that subliminal priming makes some ideas more accessible than others, but they still are only one factor that determines thought and behavior. Other factors include the ideas and goals made salient by the environment and those that are chronically accessible for the person (Strahan et al., 2002). This means that a primed schema will be more likely to tip interpretation of an ambiguous event one way or another, rather than reverse long-standing attitudes. With regard to behavior, a primed schema might subtly nudge a person to respond more aggressively to a stressful situation. But it will not transform a normally peaceful individual into a total jerk.
Chapter 3 - Assimilation and Contrast - effects
- The priming effects described so far are known as assimilation effects. This is because the judgment of the person or event is assimilated in, or changes in the direction of, the primed idea. For instance, priming the schema reckless increased the perception of mountain climbing Donald as reckless. But primes sometimes have the opposite consequence, leading to contrast effects. For example, in some studies, priming the schema hostility led people to view a person as less hostile (Lombardi et al., 1987; Martin, 1986). Although there are some complexities to determining when assimilation effects and when contrast effects are likely to occur (Higgins, 1996), contrast effects seem to emerge under a few conditions. The first is when people are very aware of the primed information and that it might affect their subsequent judgments. Accordingly, assimilation effects are consistently found for subliminal and subtle primes, but contrast effects are common when the primes and their relation to the subsequent judgment are very obvious. In these situations, people's conscious cognitive system often tries to counteract the potential influence of the prime by shifting their judgment or behavior in the direction opposite of that implied by the prime (Wegener & Petty, 1995).
Chapter 3 - Assimilation and Contrast - Two other conditions in which contrast can occur are when the prime is extreme or when it evokes a specific example of a category
- Two other conditions in which contrast can occur are when the prime is extreme or when it evokes a specific example of a category (Dijksterhuis et al., 1998; Herr, 1986; Schwarz & Bless, 1992). For example, when rating oneself after being primed with an extreme example, it may be harder to view oneself as consistent with the category. And when primed with a specific person who fits the category, the individual is more likely to compare the self with that specific person. In one study (Dijksterhuis et al., 1998), when students were asked to think about professors in general, they performed better on a test of general knowledge than students asked to think about supermodels in general (an assimilation effect). However, when participants were asked to think about specific exemplars of those categories (Albert Einstein as a professor and Claudia Schiffer as a supermodel), the specific exemplars caused participants to compare themselves with the exemplars, leading to a contrast effect in which those primed with Albert Einstein did worse than those primed with Claudia Schiffer. After all, it's rather difficult to think of oneself as smart when compared with Einstein!
Chapter 3 - Confirmation Bias: How Schemas Alter Perceptions and Shape Reality - confirmation bias
- Schemas and the expectations and interpretations that they produce are generally quite useful. Your party schema tells you what to expect there, how to dress, and so forth. Your mom schema helps you predict and interpret things your mom will say and do. And the schemas that become active in particular situations are usually the ones most relevant to that situation. However, once we have a schema, we tend to view new information in such a way as to confirm what we already believe or feel. This is known as confirmation bias. In chapter 1 (pp. 13-14) we saw how this bias influenced students' evaluations of an article on capital punishment (Lord et al., 1979). Confirmation bias helps people preserve their worldview by sustaining a stable, consistent set of beliefs and attitudes about the world. In this way, it provides the individual with psychological security. However, confirmation bias also often leads to inaccurate interpretations of new information.
Chapter 3 - Confirmation Bias: How Schemas Alter Perceptions and Shape Reality - once we have a schema of a person or situation, that schema guides us to look for certain kinds of information and ignore other kinds of information
- This effect happens for a number of reasons. First, once we have a schema of a person or situation, that schema guides us to look for certain kinds of information and ignore other kinds of information. We see this demonstrated in a study by Snyder and Frankel (1976). Participants watched a silent videotape of a woman being interviewed. They were told that the interview was about either sex or politics. Participants were told to watch the videotape to assess the woman's emotional state. When participants thought the interview was about sex, they rated her as more anxious than when they thought the interview was about politics. The videotape was the same in both cases, but when participants thought the topic was sex, they expected the woman to be anxious over discussing such a personal topic, and therefore they watched more closely for nonverbal signs of anxiety. You've heard the expression "Seeing is believing"; studies such as these suggest that the converse holds true as well: "Believing is seeing"!
Chapter 3 - Confirmation Bias: How Schemas Alter Perceptions and Shape Reality - a salient schema leads us to interpret ambiguous information in a schema-confirming manneR
- Second, a salient schema leads us to interpret ambiguous information in a schema-confirming manner. In one study, trained therapists watched a videotaped interview with a man. Half the therapists were told it was a job interview, and the other half were told it was an interview with a mental patient (Langer & Abelson, 1974). Although everyone listened to the same interview, therapists who thought the man was a mental patient saw more signs of mental illness than those who thought he was a job applicant. When the interviewee described conflicts with his bosses in past jobs, those who thought he was a mental patient tended to interpret his actions as stemming from his defensiveness, repression, and aggressive impulses. Those who thought it was a job interview interpreted the same actions as signs of perceptiveness and a realistic perspective.
Chapter 3 - The Ironic Biasing Influence of Objective Information
- Could this insidious schema-based confirmation bias actually cause objective information to do more harm than good? To find out, Darley and Gross (1983) had participants watch one of two versions of a videotape about a nine-year-old fourth grader named Hannah, showing her playing in a playground, along with scenes of her neighborhood and school. The videotapes made it clear that Hannah had either an upper-class or lower-class background. Darley and Gross reasoned that participants shared the common schema of upper-class kids as academically successful and the common schema of lower-class kids as unsuccessful.
- Half the participants (the no-performance group) were then simply asked to rate Hannah's academic abilities on a scale ranging from kindergarten to sixth-grade level. The other half (the performance group) were shown a second videotape, which was the same whether Hannah was earlier depicted as upper or lower class, before being asked to rate Hannah. This videotape showed Hannah performing on an oral achievement test, answering questions ranging from easy to hard, doing well on some and not well on others.
- Which group do you think was especially likely to be influenced in their ratings by Hannah's socioeconomic status—the no-performance group or the performance group? We might expect participants given only class-based schemas to rate Hannah higher if they thought she was upper rather than lower class. However, one would hope that participants provided with objective evidence of Hannah's academic abilities would rely on that information and ignore the class-based schemas.
- And yet the opposite occurred, as we see in FIGURE 3.10. The objective evidence increased the bias rather than decreasing it. The group that didn't have the opportunity to see Hannah perform estimated her math abilities to be the same regardless of whether she was upper or lower class. They seemed to realize that they didn't have much basis for prejudging her abilities after only seeing her on a playground. However, the group that observed Hannah take an oral achievement test rated her much better if she was upper rather than lower class. These participants saw Hannah's performance and rated her abilities in line with what they expected from a student of her social class. The point is that the participants didn't interpret the so-called objective evidence objectively; instead, they interpreted it as confirming what they already believed they knew about Hannah's ability.
Chapter 3 - Biased Information Gathering - People's schemas, even when tentative, can also lead to biased efforts to gather additional information, efforts that tend to confirm their preexisting schemas.
- People's schemas, even when tentative, can also lead to biased efforts to gather additional information, efforts that tend to confirm their preexisting schemas. Participants in one study had a brief discussion with a conversation partner who was described to them as being an extravert or an introvert (Snyder & Swann, 1978). Their job was to assess whether this was true, and they were given a set of questions to choose from to guide their conversation. Participants tended to ask the conversation partner questions that already assumed the hypothesis was true and would lead to answers confirming the hypothesis. For example, a participant wanting to determine if the partner was an extravert chose to ask questions such as, "What kinds of situations do you seek out if you want to meet new people?" and "In what situations are you most talkative?" However, if they wanted to determine if the partner was an introvert, they chose questions such as, "What factors make it hard for you to really open up to people?" and "What things do you dislike about loud parties?" What's important to note here is that these are leading questions: When answering a question about how she livens up a party, for example, a person is very likely to come across as extraverted, even if she is not; likewise, even an extravert will look introverted when talking about what he dislikes about social situations. This study shows that people tend to seek evidence that fits the hypothesis they are testing rather than also searching for evidence that might not fit that hypothesis.
Chapter 3 - Biased Information Gathering - These effects could have important implications for how clinical psychologists diagnose disorders.
- These effects could have important implications for how clinical psychologists diagnose disorders. In one series of studies, participants were shown a set of drawings of a human figure along with a psychological symptom of the person who drew each picture (Chapman & Chapman, 1967). After viewing all of the pictures, participants were asked to draw conclusions about whether people who share the same symptoms have a tendency to draw certain features of a person in a distinctive way. In a sense, they were given the opportunity to play amateur therapists who use drawings to uncover people's psychological issues. And their responses showed a great deal of convergence: Participants often concluded that people with paranoid tendencies drew unusual eyes in their pictures, and men who were worried about their masculinity drew images with broader shoulders and more muscular physiques. However, unknown to the participants, the researchers had randomly paired each symptom with a picture so that there was no true correlation between these aspects of the drawings and the mental issues they imagined for the artists. Rather, they saw in the pictures what they expected to see given their expectations for paranoid or worried types. Follow-up studies showed that these biases are present even among experienced clinicians (Chapman & Chapman, 1969). When people do not try to actively disconfirm their expectancies for others, they run the risk of seeing only what they already believe.
Chapter 3 - The Self-fulfilling Prophecy
- Another vivid testament to the power of schemas is evidence that they not only bias our perceptions of social reality, but can also create the social reality that we expect. More specifically, people's initially false expectations can cause the fulfillment of those expectations, a phenomenon that Robert Merton (1948) labeled the self-fulfilling prophecy. To investigate this idea, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) went to an elementary school in 1964 and administered some tests to the students. After scoring the tests, they gave the teachers the names of some kids in their class who, according to the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition, were on the verge of experiencing a substantial leap forward in their general learning abilities. The teachers were told that these kids were "late bloomers" who were about to display an "intellectual growth spurt."
- Two years later, the kids labeled as late bloomers actually scored substantially higher than their classmates did on a test of general abilities. However, unknown to the teachers, the list of kids originally labeled late bloomers was a random selection from the class rosters. So the only reason they experienced a dramatic intellectual growth spurt was that the teachers were led to expect they would!
Chapter 3 - What accounts for this self-fulfilling prophecy?
- What accounts for this self-fulfilling prophecy? Years of additional research have revealed that although such effects don't always occur, when they do, it is because teachers' expectations affect their behavior toward the students in ways that improve the students' learning (Rosenthal, 2002). For example, kids expected to do well are given more attention and more nods and smiles, are challenged more, and are given more positive reinforcement for their successes (e.g., Harris & Rosenthal, 1985; Jussim, 1986). Students tend to respond to such behavior with more engagement and more effort, and consequently, more learning. One study also showed that these expectations can work in the opposite direction: If students expect a teacher to be excellent, the teacher performs better (Feldman & Prohaska, 1979).
Chapter 3 - Since that classic study on teachers and students, self-fulfilling prophecies have been demonstrated in many other contexts as well
- Since that classic study on teachers and students, self-fulfilling prophecies have been demonstrated in many other contexts as well (e.g., Snyder et al., 1977). If you expect someone to be friendly and sociable, you are likely to act in ways that elicit such behavior. If you expect someone to be unpleasant and annoying, you are likely to act in ways that provoke that kind of behavior. One study found that army platoon leaders led to expect their platoon to be made up of exceptional recruits actually produced better soldiers (Eden, 1990). Mere expectations won't turn a serial killer such as Jeffrey Dahmer into a humanitarian such as Nelson Mandela, but most of us are capable of being pleasant or unpleasant, industrious or indifferent. Within a moderate range of variability, it seems quite clear that perceivers' expectations about others often shift people's behavior toward confirming those expectations.
Chapter 3 - Beyond Schemas: Metaphor's Influence on Social Thought
- So far we've focused on people's use of schemas. It makes intuitive sense that people think about a thing by applying their accumulated knowledge about other things that are like it. But do people ordinarily use other cognitive devices to make meaningful sense of the social world? To find out, listen to how people commonly talk about the abstract ideas that matter in their daily lives:
- I can see your point (understanding is seeing)
I'll keep that in mind (the mind is a container)
Christmas is fast approaching (events are moving objects)
That is a heavy thought (thoughts are objects with weight)
I feel down (feelings are vertical locations)
I devoured the book, but I'm still digesting its claims (ideas are food)
Her arguments are strong (arguments are muscle force)
I'm moving forward with the chapter (progress is forward motion)
The economy went from bad to worse (states are locations)
- These are metaphoric expressions because they compare things that, on the surface, are quite different. (These comparisons are reflected in the statements in parentheses.) That is why these expressions do not make sense if taken literally. For example, feelings do not have an actual vertical location, and arguments cannot have muscle strength. According to many philosophers and psychologists, such metaphoric expressions are more than merely colorful figures of speech; instead, they offer a powerful window into how people make sense of abstract ideas.
Chapter 3 - Beyond Schemas: Metaphor's Influence on Social Thought - metaphors
- From this perspective, metaphors are cognitive tools that people use to understand abstract ideas by applying their knowledge of other types of ideas that are more concrete and easier to understand (Kövecses, 2010; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). For example, when Lisa says, "Christmas is fast approaching," she may be using her knowledge about moving objects to conceptualize time. Why? Because Lisa may find it difficult to get a clear image of time in her mind (not surprising, since physicists aren't sure what time is!). Yet she has a concrete schema for physical objects moving around, and this schema tells her that objects tend to be more relevant as they draw closer. By using her objects schema to think about time, Lisa can make sense of what an "approaching" event means for her (time to buy gifts!), even though there is no such thing as an event moving toward her.
Chapter 3 - Beyond Schemas: Metaphor's Influence on Social Thought - How does this perspective enhance what we know about social cognition?
- How does this perspective enhance what we know about social cognition? It suggests that people's everyday efforts to construct meaning draw on metaphors as well as schemas. Whereas schemas organize knowledge about a given idea, metaphors connect an idea to knowledge of a different type of thing. Often, we construct metaphors around things that are connected to our bodily experiences. For instance, people understand morality partly by using a schema that might contain memories of moral and immoral individuals and behaviors. But people also understand morality metaphorically in terms of their bodily experiences with physical cleanliness and contamination (Zhong & House, 2013). This metaphor is reflected in common expressions such as, "Your filthy mind is stuck in the gutter; think pure thoughts with a clean conscience," and it operates at a conceptual level to shape how we make judgments about morality.
Chapter 3 - Beyond Schemas: Metaphor's Influence on Social Thought - Researchers have tried to go beyond analyzing language to learn more directly whether people use metaphor to think about abstract ideas.
- Researchers have tried to go beyond analyzing language to learn more directly whether people use metaphor to think about abstract ideas. In one procedure, participants are primed with a bodily experience, such as tasting something, seeing something, or feeling something's texture. Then, in an apparently unrelated task, they are asked to make judgments or decisions about an abstract idea. The researchers reason that if people in fact use a bodily experience to understand an abstract idea, then the prime should produce parallel changes in those judgments and decisions. To illustrate, if people understand love metaphorically as a journey ("Our relationship is moving forward"), then priming them with the bodily experience of journeying over rocky terrain (versus smooth terrain) should lead them to expect to encounter conflicts as their love relationships progress. Alternatively, if people do not use the metaphor love is a journey, then we wouldn't expect that priming experiences of physical journeys would influence their judgments and decisions about love.
Chapter 3 - Beyond Schemas: Metaphor's Influence on Social Thought - the metaphorical link between physical and interpersonal warmth
- Williams and Bargh (2008) used this procedure to examine the metaphorical link between physical and interpersonal warmth. They built on prior evidence that people commonly refer to interactions with others by using the concepts warm and cold (Asch, 1946; Fiske et al., 2007), as when one receives a warm welcome or a cold rejection. To determine whether this metaphor influences social perceptions, they had the experimenter—who apparently needed a free hand—ask participants to hold her coffee cup. Depending on condition, the cup was either warm or cold. Afterward, all participants were asked to read a brief description of another person and rate that person's friendliness and trustworthiness—that is, the person's interpersonal warmth. As predicted, participants who simply held a warm (versus a cold) beverage perceived a target individual as friendlier and more trustworthy, suggesting that conceptual metaphors can influence social perceptions even when people are not prompted to use metaphoric language.
Chapter 3 - Subtle primes of bodily experience influence how people perceive, remember, and make judgments and decisions related to a wide range of abstract social concepts.
- Similar effects have now been found in dozens of published studies (see Landau et al., 2010; Landau et al., 2013). Subtle primes of bodily experience influence how people perceive, remember, and make judgments and decisions related to a wide range of abstract social concepts. To mention just a few surprising findings: Weight manipulations influence perceived importance; smooth textures promote social coordination; hard textures result in greater strictness in social judgment; priming closeness (vs. distance) increases felt attachment to one's hometown and families; groups and individuals are viewed as more powerful when they occupy higher regions of vertical space.
- These findings highlight an important fact about the way we make sense of the world: We construct an understanding of abstract ideas by drawing on our knowledge of the sensory and motor experiences we have had from the earliest moments of life (Mandler, 2004; Williams et al., 2009).
Chapter 3 - Moral Judgments and Cleanliness Metaphors - how schemas and metaphors are applied in moral judgment
- Let's look, for example, at how schemas and metaphors are applied in moral judgment. Your friend says her boyfriend lied to her and then asks you, "Wasn't that wrong of him?" She is asking you to make a moral judgment—that is, to evaluate an action as right or wrong. How do we make these judgments? Some have argued that they are based on internalized moral rules that we follow in a rational manner. If you believe stealing is immoral, then an act of stealing is wrong and a thief is immoral.
Chapter 3 - Moral Judgments and Cleanliness Metaphors - metaphor research suggests that our understanding of right and wrong, good and evil, may be affected by bodily concepts, particularly those related to disgust, physical filth, and cleanliness
- But metaphor research suggests that our understanding of right and wrong, good and evil, may be affected by bodily concepts, particularly those related to disgust, physical filth, and cleanliness. Consider a study by Schnall and colleagues (2008). Participants were asked to read about individuals who committed various kinds of moral violations, such as not returning a found wallet to its rightful owner or falsifying a resume, and to rate how morally wrong those actions are. Half the participants made their judgments in a dirty work space: on the desk were stains and the dried-up remains of a smoothie, and next to the desk was an overflowing trash can; the other participants made their judgments in a clean work space. As expected, the mere presence of filth led participants to condemn moral violations more severely, even though it didn't change their overall mood. Intrigued by these findings, and guided by the field's growing interest in replication, Johnson and colleagues (2014) re-did this study but did not find that physical cleanliness affected the severity of moral judgments. The inconsistency in these results across labs creates an exciting opportunity to take a closer look at the methods used by the two research teams. Because researchers are actively trying to understand how priming affects behavior, there is still a lot we can learn about when such metaphoric associations affect judgments and when they do not.
The "What" of Social Cognition
- The mind typically classifies a stimulus into a category, then accesses a schema, a mental structure containing knowledge about a category. Schemas allow people to "go beyond the information given" to make inferences, judgments, and decisions about a given stimulus. Although generally helpful, schemas can produce false beliefs and limit a person's interpretation of reality
The "What" of Social Cognition - Sources
- Schemas come from multiple sources and are heavily influenced by culture. They are also shaped by the need for closure.
The "What" of Social Cognition - Accessibility and Priming
- Salient schemas are highly accessible and color thinking and behavior.
- Priming occurs when activating an idea increases a schema's salience.
- When primed, schemas can influence the impressions we form of others as well as our own behavior.
- Often these effects operate outside of conscious awareness.
- Priming can have contrast effects, leading to schema-opposing perceptions and behaviors.
The "What" of Social Cognition - Confirmation bias
- People tend to interpret information in a way that confirms their prior schemas.
- Objective information may be skewed to fall in line with expectations.
- Schema-inconsistent information may be overlooked.
- Our expectations may shift another's behavior toward confirming those expectations.
- We may revise our views for exceptional cases but retain the underlying schema.
The "What" of Social Cognition - Metaphor
- People use metaphor to understand an abstract concept in terms of another type of idea that is more concrete and easier to grasp.
Chapter 3 - Priming and Motivation - to see how motivation plays a role, think back to the study in which people primed with rudeness were quicker to interrupt an experimenter's conversation
- To see how motivation plays a role, think back to the study in which people primed with rudeness were quicker to interrupt an experimenter's conversation (Bargh et al., 1996). Did the prime directly trigger the rude behavior? Probably not. In that study, participants were motivated from the outset to get the experimenter's attention, so although the prime increased their tendency to interrupt a conversation, it did not trigger the behavior without some motivation to engage in it. Other research more directly reveals that primed ideas influence thought and behavior, particularly when they are compatible with the person's preexisting motivation. For example, subliminally priming the idea thirst can lead a person to drink more, but only when that person is thirsty; without this motivation to satisfy thirst, the prime has no effect on beverage consumption (Strahan et al., 2002).
Chapter 3 - Priming and Motivation - our motivations are intertwined
- In addition, because our motivations are intertwined with many of the objects, events, and people we encounter, priming such contexts and cues often activates specific motives and goals that are associated with them (Gollwitzer & Bargh, 2005). If we're looking for someone to date and we see an attractive person, this motivation activates not only schemas pertaining to beauty but also the goal of meeting that person.
Chapter 3 - Priming and Motivation - Cesario and colleagues (Cesario et al., 2006) illustrated this point using a priming procedure developed by Bargh and associates (1996)
- Cesario and colleagues (Cesario et al., 2006) illustrated this point using a priming procedure developed by Bargh and associates (1996). In the original study, participants had to rearrange sets of scrambled words to form grammatical sentences. Embedded within this sentence-unscrambling task were some words related to college students' concept of the elderly (compared to only neutral words in a no-prime condition). After completing the sentence-unscrambling task, participants were told they could leave. Little did they know that the experimenter measured how long it took them to walk down the hallway to the elevator. Participants primed with the elderly schema walked more slowly than those who did not have this schema primed. This was originally interpreted as an "automatic activation" effect in which the elderly schema was salient (as a result of being primed) and automatically influenced participants' behavior.
Chapter 3 - Priming and Motivation - Cesario and colleagues argued that being exposed to the prime didn't just make the elderly schema accessible but also activated participants' feelings about and motivation to interact with elderly individuals
- However, Cesario and colleagues argued that being exposed to the prime didn't just make the elderly schema accessible but also activated participants' feelings about and motivation to interact with elderly individuals. Some people have positive attitudes about old people, and others have more negative attitudes. For those who have positive attitudes toward the elderly, when the elderly schema is activated, so too is the motivation to interact positively with such people. These participants might unconsciously adjust their behavior to have a smoother interaction with an elderly person; this could include walking more slowly, as Bargh and his team had shown.
- But when the same schema is primed for those who have negative attitudes toward the elderly, so too is the motivation to avoid them. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized, these participants should walk faster to avoid the elderly and leave them in the dust. This was exactly what they found. When participants had positive attitudes about the elderly, they responded to the elderly prime by walking more slowly. However, when participants had negative attitudes about the elderly, they responded to the prime by walking faster! These results support the point that primes do not influence behavior in a simple manner, but rather interact with the person's motivation to determine what she or he thinks and does in a given context (Cesario et al., 2010).
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - people are not simply automaton
- Clearly, people are not simply automatons, blindly controlled by whatever schemas happen to be accessible in their minds. Indeed, the tools that we use to think serve our needs and goals. As a result, we do not think about the world "out there" as though we were video cameras; rather, our everyday thinking is significantly shaped by the motives and needs that we have in the moment. What are those motives and needs? Some stem from our bodies, of course. A hungry person is more likely to think about food than sex and will likely look for, and notice, a restaurant faster than an attractive person who happens to be walking by.
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - Other motives have to do with the kinds of thoughts we want to have about the people, ideas, and events that we encounter in our social environment.
- Other motives have to do with the kinds of thoughts we want to have about the people, ideas, and events that we encounter in our social environment. Specifically, what we think about, and how we think about it, are continually influenced by three psychological motives that we introduced earlier in this chapter: to be accurate, to be certain, and to maintain particular beliefs and attitudes that fit with our worldview (Kruglanski, 1980, 2004). These motives are constantly at work, sometimes below our conscious radar, filtering which bits of information get into our minds, how we interpret and remember them, and which we bring to mind to justify what we want to believe.
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - the motive for accuracy can lead people to set aside their schemas and focus on the objective facts
- For one, the motive for accuracy can lead people to set aside their schemas and focus on the objective facts. For example, when a person is motivated to understand who another person really is, perhaps because he is going to work with her on a task, he may be motivated to look past the convenient stereotypes he has for her group and put more thought into her individual personality (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990).
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - What about the need for nonspecific closure?
- What about the need for nonspecific closure? When people are motivated to gain a clear, simple understanding of their surroundings, they tend to see events in a way that wraps up the world in a neat little package. We mentioned at the beginning of the chapter that this need can become active when the situation makes thinking unpleasant. In a study demonstrating this motivation for nonspecific closure (Kruglanski & Freund, 1983), participants told that they had to form an impression of someone in a limited amount of time tended to reach a conclusion based on the first bits of information they received, failing to take into account relevant information that they encountered later (known as the primacy effect). In contrast, participants not under time pressure felt more comfortable considering all the relevant information before reaching a conclusion about what the person was like.
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - Mental laziness is not the only reason people seek closure on simple, consistent interpretations of the world. Sure, sometimes thinking takes effort and so we stick to familiar, simple conclusions.
- Mental laziness is not the only reason people seek closure on simple, consistent interpretations of the world. Sure, sometimes thinking takes effort and so we stick to familiar, simple conclusions. Yet another benefit of maintaining well-structured knowledge is that the opposite states of mind—uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity—can be very unsettling. According to the meaning maintenance model, even brief exposure to stimuli that seem out of place or inconsistent with expectations can put people on the alert to make sense of their environment or to affirm other moral convictions (Heine et al., 2006; Proulx & Heine, 2008, 2009). In one study, after simply viewing nonsensical word pairs such as "turn-frogs" and "careful-sweaters" (compared with sensible word associations), participants were more eager to reaffirm a sense of meaning by acting in line with their moral beliefs (Randles et al., 2011). When unexpected events occur, people have an automatic tendency to restore a sense of meaning, even in unrelated areas of life.
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - Why, deep down, are inconsistent states of mind threatening?
- Why, deep down, are inconsistent states of mind threatening? From the existential perspective, maintaining clear, simple interpretations of reality provides people with a psychological buffer against the threatening awareness of their mortality (Landau et al., 2004) and a broader sense of meaning (Heine et al., 2006). If the world appears fragmented, chaotic, or vague, people may have difficulty sustaining faith that there is anything bigger than themselves—anything that they can rely on to give their life meaning and significance—and so they are left with the possibility that they will simply die and be forgotten. Conversely, the sense that the world is ordered—that people act in consistent ways, for example, and that people generally get what they deserve—buttresses people's faith that they can establish some meaning and personal value that will be remembered after they die. In studies supporting this idea, participants reminded of their mortality were more likely to show primacy effects in impression formation, and they showed particularly strong dislike of someone who acted inconsistently from one situation to the next. Thoughts of mortality not only increase the tendency to think of members of other groups in simplified, stereotypic ways but also increase preference for outgroup members who confirm rather than call into question such stereotypes (Schimel et al., 1999).
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - Let's turn to the need for specific closure.
- In many cases, people want more than mere certainty: they want to reach conclusions that support their preferred views of the social world, including events, other people, and themselves. Mac users want to think Macs are better than PCs; most people want to believe their country is great; and we all want to think our friends are good people. In the sections above we reviewed a number of research studies that demonstrate the ways in which people filter and manipulate reality in order to maintain their preferred beliefs and attitudes.
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - Let's consider one more example of such motivated social cognition: how people interpret an athletic event when they attach their feelings of self-worth to the success of one of the teams.
- Let's consider one more example of such motivated social cognition: how people interpret an athletic event when they attach their feelings of self-worth to the success of one of the teams. If you've ever watched a game with another person and you were each rooting for a different team, you probably noticed that you have very different perceptions of what is happening in the game. With a close play at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, do you think Red Sox and Yankees fans see the attempted tag of the runner in the same way?
- Consistent with your likely intuition, a study of fans' impressions of a particularly rough football game between Princeton University and Dartmouth College back in 1951 indicates that they would not. Following the game, Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril (1954) showed students from both schools a film of it and then asked them how many penalties each team had committed. Princeton students saw Dartmouth players committing many more penalties than Princeton players, whereas Dartmouth students saw their team only commit half the number of penalties that the Princeton students attributed to them. But of course, students from both schools watched the same film! Our motivations—in this example our investment in our sports team—affect the way in which we perceive events unfolding. We look for what we want to find and come up with justifications to our conclusions ("See—look at that! The receiver was mugged before the ball got there!").
Chapter 3 - Motivated Social Cognition - researchers across the globe have shown in myriad studies the many ways in which people's cognitions are biased by their motivation to maintain preferred beliefs and attitudes
- Since this classic study, researchers across the globe have shown in myriad studies the many ways in which people's cognitions are biased by their motivation to maintain preferred beliefs and attitudes. Of course, there are limits to the influence of motives on people's thinking. For people to function effectively in the world, their cognitions must be generally accurate representations of external and social reality. If one's favorite college basketball team doesn't win a game all season, believing they are the best team in the nation would be too discrepant with reality and therefore unsustainable. One would have to also believe in a mass conspiracy or that everyone else was crazy. As a result, the person's understanding of reality is the product of a compromise among three motivations: desire to be accurate, to be certain, and to hold on to valued beliefs (Heine et al., 2006; Kunda, 1990).
Chapter 3 - Mood and Social Judgment - In addition to psychological motives, moods can play an important role in shaping social judgment about a given event or person
- In addition to psychological motives, moods can play an important role in shaping social judgment about a given event or person. A mood is a generalized state of affect that persists longer than the experience of an emotion. For example, the happiness a person experiences after finding a dollar bill on the ground lasts a couple of minutes, but moods can continue to resonate for much longer. This points to another unique characteristic of moods: Unlike with emotions, often the person does not know why she or he is in a given mood. Sometimes we just find ourselves feeling bad or good, and we cannot quite put our finger on why.
Chapter 3 - Mood and Social Judgment - Why might humans have evolved the ability to experience moods in the first place?
- Why might humans have evolved the ability to experience moods in the first place? For one thing, moods may inform the person about the status of things in the immediate environment. Think about this from the evolutionary perspective. Being in a positive mood is a signal that everything is okay, that there are no immediate threats to be concerned with. Negative moods, on the other hand, signal that something is wrong and might be deserving of one's attention. In fact, over the course of our species' evolution, positive moods might have promoted exploring the environment, expanding hunting territories, and trying unfamiliar foods—behaviors that, when well attuned to cues in the environment, would have facilitated the success of the species. Likewise, negative moods might have promoted greater vigilance against attack, protection of the tribe, and more conservative eating habits—behaviors that would also increase the chance for survival when the threat of danger is real. As a result of these evolutionary pressures, people today may be oriented to use their mood as information in their judgments (Schwarz & Clore, 1983; 2003). Whether they realize it or not, they are listening to their moods when making decisions and forming judgments.
Chapter 3 - Mood and Social Judgment - mood states should affect both the content of a person's social judgments and how motivated the person is to engage in effortful processing of information
- By this logic, mood states should affect both the content of a person's social judgments and how motivated the person is to engage in effortful processing of information. If people are feeling good while considering whether they like a person or an event such as a party, they are more likely to view each of them positively. If they are feeling lousy, that will color their view of such things negatively. Also, the more thought people put into such judgments, the more their moods color them (Forgas, 1995). The reason is that the more thinking a person does, the more his mood infuses his evaluations of the various aspects of the person or event he is evaluating.
Chapter 3 - Mood and Social Judgment - Mood also affects how motivated people are to think extensively about people and events occurring around them
- Mood also affects how motivated people are to think extensively about people and events occurring around them. Because positive moods signal that things are okay, individuals feeling good rely on more heuristic or automatic forms of processing when making judgments about people, events, and issues (Bless et al., 1996; Forgas, 1998; Mackie & Worth, 1989). In other words, they rely more on the experiential system of cognition that we introduced at the beginning of this chapter. For instance, people in good moods are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging people (Bodenhausen et al., 1994).
Chapter 3 - Mood and Social Judgment - negative moods tell the person that something is wrong
- On the other hand, negative moods tell the person that something is wrong. Therefore they lead the person to think more carefully to figure out what is bothering her. Studies show, in fact, that participants experiencing a negative mood focus on relevant details before making a judgment, rather than settling on a quick and dirty judgment (Bless et al., 1990; Forgas et al., 2005; Gasper & Clore, 2002).
Chapter 3 - Mood and Social Judgment - Herbert Bless and his colleagues (Bless et al., 1990) had students recall a very happy or a very sad event in their lives, a manipulation that reliably induces a positive or negative mood
- As a demonstration of this idea, Herbert Bless and his colleagues (Bless et al., 1990) had students recall a very happy or a very sad event in their lives, a manipulation that reliably induces a positive or negative mood. In a supposedly unrelated study, participants listened to an essay that argued for an increase in student fees at the university. For half of the sample, the arguments in the essay were rather weak, but for the other half, the arguments in the essay were quite strong—that is, its claims were logical and built on solid evidence. Because most college students are likely to be opposed to a fee increase, the default, or heuristic, response is to pay little attention to how good the arguments are and maintain one's negative attitude toward the proposal. However, if you are processing the information in the essay carefully, paying attention to details, then strong arguments for the proposal could sway your opinion. Results showed that the students who were in a happy mood processed the essay more heuristically. Their attitude toward a tuition increase was negative, even when the arguments for the increase were strong. In contrast, participants who were in a negative mood really thought carefully about the essay, so they were persuaded by the strong arguments to believe that the fee increase would be a good idea.
THIS SET IS OFTEN IN FOLDERS WITH...
Social Psychology Final Review
Social Psychology, social psych test 2 B…
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...
Psych 350 Chapter 3
Psychology 1010 exam 4 part 2
OTHER SETS BY THIS CREATOR
COMPTIA A+ CORE 1 PART 2
COMPTIA part 1
Introduction to Labour Market Economics
OTHER QUIZLET SETS
Sociology Eaxam #1
Approaches and History
Philosophy 201 Final