SP3-social cognition

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Chapter 3
Social Cognition:
How We Think about the
Social World
1
SOCIAL COGNITION

Social Cognition - How people think
about themselves and the social world,
or more specifically, how people select,
interpret, remember, and use social
information to make judgments and
decisions.
2
SOCIAL COGNITION



The study of social cognition is a central
topic in social psychology.
The assumption is that people are
generally trying to form accurate
impressions of the world and do so much
of the time.
Because of the nature of social thinking,
however, people sometimes form
erroneous impressions.
3
SOCIAL COGNITION
2 Kinds of Social Cognition
1.
2.
Quick and automatic “without thinking,”
without consciously deliberating one’s own
thoughts, perceptions, assumptions.
Controlled thinking that is effortful and
deliberate, pausing to think about self and
environment, carefully selecting the right
course of action.
4
ON AUTOMATIC PILOT:
LOW-EFFORT THINKING

Automatic thinking is thinking that is
nonconscious, unintentional, involuntary
and effortless.
5
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas


Schemas are mental structures people
use to organize their knowledge about the
social world around themes or subjects:
schemas affect what information we
notice, think about, and remember.
Schemas act as filters, screening out
information that is inconsistent with them.
Although we may notice and remember
glaring exceptions, usually we attend only
to schema-consistent information.
6
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas

The term schema encompasses our knowledge
about many things:





Other people,
Ourselves,
Social roles (e.g., what a librarian or engineer is
like),
Specific events (e.g., what usually happens when
people eat a meal in a restaurant).
In each case, our schemas contain our basic
knowledge and impressions that we use to
organize what we know about the social world
and interpret new situations.
7
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas


When applied to members of a social
group such as gender or race, schemas
are commonly referred to as
stereotypes.
Stereotypes can be applied rapidly and
automatically when we encounter other
people.
8
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Stereotypes about Race and Weapons
 Payne and colleagues (Payne, 2001; Payne,
Shimizu, & Jacoby, 2005) rapidly showed college
students pairs of pictures.
 Participants were told to pay attention to press
one key if certain pictures showed a tool and
another key if it was a gun, in only ½ second.
 People were significantly more likely to
misidentify a tool as a gun when it was
preceded by a black face than when it was
preceded by a white face.
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10
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Stereotypes about Race and Weapons
 Another study (Correll, Park, Judd, & Wittenbrink,
2002) involved awarding video game players
points for shooting characters holding weapons
but subtracted points for shooting characters
holding tools.
 Results showed they made the most errors,
shooting an unarmed person, when a black
person was not holding a gun.
 When the men in the picture were white,
participants made about the same number of
errors whether the men were armed or unarmed.
11
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
The Function of Schemas: Why Do We Have
Them?


Schemas are typically very useful for helping us
organize and make sense of the world and to fill
in the gaps of our knowledge.
Schemas are particularly important when we
encounter information that can be interpreted in
a number of ways, because they help us reduce
ambiguity.
12
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Schemas as Memory Guides
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Schemas also help people fill in the blanks when they
are trying to remember things.
We don’t remember exactly as if our minds were
cameras.
Instead, we remember some information that was there
(particularly information our schemas lead us to pay
attention to), and we remember other information that
was never there but that we have unknowingly added.
Memory reconstructions tend to be consistent with one’s
schemas.
13
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Which Schemas Are Applied?
- Accessibility 
Accessibility: the ease with which
schemas can be brought to mind.
14
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Which Schemas Are Applied?
- Accessibility 
Something can become accessible for
three reasons:
1. Some schemas are chronically accessible
due to past experience.
2. Something can become accessible because
it is related to a current goal.
3. Schemas can become temporarily accessible
because of our recent experiences.
15
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Which Schemas Are Applied? -Priming

Priming: the process by which recent
experiences make schemas, traits, or
concepts come to mind more readily.
Priming is a good example of automatic
thinking because it occurs quickly,
unintentionally, and unconsciously.
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17
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Which Schemas Are Applied? -Priming


Suppose you read about a man named Donald
whose actions are ambiguous, interpretable in
either a positive or negative manner.
People who previously memorize words like
adventurous tend to form positive impressions
of him.
People primed with words like reckless and
stubborn form negative impressions.
(Higgins, Rholes, & Jones, 1977)
18
Higgins, Rholes, & Jones (1977)
19
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
The Persistence of Schemas After They
Are Discredited
Perseverance effect: the tendency for

people’s beliefs about themselves and their
world to persist even when those beliefs are
discredited.

Example: Even though a judge may instruct the
jurors to disregard inadmissible evidence, because
of the way schemas work, the jurors’ beliefs can
persist even after the evidence for them proves to
be false.
20
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Making Our Schemas Come True:
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Self-fulfilling prophecy: The case whereby
people
(1) Have an expectation (schema)about what
another person is like, which
(2) influences how they act toward that person,
which
(3) causes that person to behave consistently with
people’s original expectations, making the
expectations come true.
21
22
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Making Our Schemas Come True:
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Teachers led to believe particular students
will bloom:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
Create a warmer emotional climate for those students,
giving them more personal attention, encouragement,
and support,
Give “bloomers” more challenging material,
Give “bloomers” more and better feedback,
Give “bloomers” more opportunities to respond in class
and give them longer to respond.
23
24
People as Everyday Theorists:
Automatic Thinking with Schemas
Cultural Determinants of Schemas
 An important source of our schemas is the
culture in which we grow up.
 In fact, schemas are an important way
cultures exert their influence: by instilling
mental structures that influence how we
understand and interpret the world.
25
Mental Strategies and
Shortcuts

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When deciding which job to accept, what car to
buy, or whom to marry, we usually do not
conduct a thorough search of every option.
What shortcuts do people use?
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One way is to use schemas to understand new
situations.
When making specific kinds of judgments and
decisions, however, we do not always have a readymade schema to apply.
At other times, there are too many schemas that
could apply, and it is not clear which one to use. What
do we do?
26
Mental Strategies and
Shortcuts

Judgmental heuristics are mental
shortcuts people use to make judgments
quickly and efficiently.

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Availability heuristic
Representativeness heuristic
Anchoring and adjustment heuristic
27
Mental Strategies and
Shortcuts

Availability heuristic - a mental rule of
thumb whereby people base a judgment
on the ease with which they can bring
something to mind.
28
Mental Strategies and
Shortcuts

Representativeness Heuristic - A
mental shortcut whereby people classify
something according to how similar it is
to a typical case.

Base Rate Information - Information about
the frequency of members of different categories
in the population. It usually is not considered
when people are using mental shortcuts.
29
Mental Strategies and
Shortcuts

Anchoring and adjustment heuristic
- a mental shortcut that involves using a
number or value as a starting point, and
then adjusting one’s answer insufficiently
from this anchor.

One example of anchoring and adjustment is
biased sampling, whereby people make
generalizations from samples of information
they know are biased or atypical.
30
CONTROLLED SOCIAL COGNITION:
HIGH-EFFORT THINKING

Controlled thinking - Thinking that
is conscious, voluntary, and effortful
31
CONTROLLED SOCIAL COGNITION:
HIGH-EFFORT THINKING

Automatic Believing, Controlled
Unbelieving
32
Thought Suppression and
Ironic Processing

Thought Suppression - The attempt to
avoid thinking about something we would
prefer to forget.


The automatic aspect, the monitoring process,
searches for evidence that the unwanted
thought is about to intrude on consciousness.
Then the operating process, comes into play.
This is the effortful, conscious attempt to
distract oneself by finding something else to
think about.
33
Thought Suppression and
Ironic Processing


The irony is that when people are trying
hardest not to think about something if
tired or preoccupied (under cognitive load),
these thoughts are especially likely to spill
out unchecked.
Being preoccupied reduces our ability to
engage in thought suppression, or the
attempt to avoid thinking about something
we would just as soon forget.
34
Mentally Undoing the Past:
Counterfactual Reasoning

Counterfactual thinking is mentally
changing some aspect of the past as a
way of imagining what might have been.
35
Improving Human Thinking

Often we have more confidence in our
judgements than we should. To try to
improve reasoning skills, we need to
break through this overconfidence
barrier and make people more aware of
the limits of their cognitive abilities.

Overconfidence Barrier -The fact that
people usually have too much confidence in
the accuracy of their judgments.
36
THE AMADOU DIALLO
CASE REVISITED

Racial prejudice can result from either
automatic thinking or conscious,
deliberative thinking.


Amadou Diallo Case
Michael Dasrath and Edgardo Cureg Case
(Racial Profiling)
37
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