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Psychology applied to modern life adjustment in the 21st century, 11e chapter 7

Chapter 7
Social Thinking and Social Influence

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

As we engage in person perception, “the
process of forming impressions of others”, we
rely on five key sources of information:
1. Appearance.
2. Verbal behavior.
3. Actions.
4. Nonverbal messages (e.g., facial
expressions, body language, and gestures).
5. Situations.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

Snap judgments vs. systematic judgments
– Snap judgments about others “are those
made quickly and based on only a few bits of
information and preconceived notions”.
– They are “shortcuts” that rely on automatic
processing, and are used when we are not
motivated to form an accurate impression of
another person.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued
Snap vs. systematic judgments, continued
• Systematic judgments require more
controlled processing and tend to occur when
forming impressions of others that can affect
our happiness or welfare.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

Attributions are “inferences that people draw
about the causes of their own behavior, others’
behavior, and events”. There are two types:
1. Internal attributions – when people attribute
the cause of others’ behavior to personal
dispositions, traits, abilities, or feelings.
2. External attributions – when people attribute
the cause of others’ behavior to situational
demands or environmental constraints.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued
Attributions, continued
• We are most likely to make attributions about
others’ behavior when
– Others behave in unexpected or negative

– When events are personally relevant.
– When we are suspicious about others’

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

Perceiver expectations
– How we expect others to behave can
influence our actual perceptions of them.
– Confirmation bias – “seeking information
that supports one’s beliefs while not
pursuing disconfirming information”.
– Self-fulfilling prophecies – occur when
“expectations about a person cause the
person to behave in ways that confirm the
expectations” (see Figure 7.3).

Figure 7.3. The three steps of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Through a three-step process, your expectations about a
person can cause that person to behave in ways that confirm those expectations. First, you form an impression of
someone. Second, you behave toward that person in a way that is consistent with your impression. Third, the person
exhibits the behavior you encourage, which confirms your initial impression.
Adapted from Smith, E.R., & Mackie, D.M. (1995). Social Psychology. New York: Worth, p. 103. Copyright © 1995
Worth Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

Cognitive distortions
– Social categorizations – cognitive
“shortcuts” in which we categorize people
on the basis of nationality, race, gender,
• People perceive similar individuals to
be members of their ingroup (us) and
dissimilar people to be members of the
outgroup (them).

Forming Impressions of Others, continued
Social categorization, continued
• Categorizing has three important results:
1. People have more negative attitudes
toward outgroup members.
2. People see outgroup members as more
alike than they really are (the outgroup
homogeneity effect).
3. The visibility of outgroup members is
heightened when they comprise the
minority in a crowd.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

Stereotypes – “widely held beliefs that
people have certain characteristics because
of their membership in a particular group”.
Stereotypes persist because of
– Simplicity. They are less effortful,
cognitively. But, the trade-off for simplicity
is inaccuracy.
– Confirmation bias.
– Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

The fundamental attribution error – refers
to “the tendency to explain other people’s
behavior as the result of personal, rather than
situational, factors”.
Making attributions requires two steps:
1. Focusing on the person (making an
internal attribution).
2. Taking the situation into account (allowing
for external attributions).
The second step is more effortful, so we
often skip it (see Figure 7.5).

Figure 7.5. Explaining the fundamental attribution error. People automatically take the first step in the
attribution process (making a personal attribution). However, they often fail to take the second step
(considering the possible influence of situational factors on a person’s behavior) because that requires extra
effort. The failure to consider situational factors causes observers to exaggerate the role of personal factors
in behavior—that is, they make the fundamental attribution error. (Adapted from Brehm, Kassin, & Fein,

Forming Impressions of Others, continued

A defensive attribution is “the tendency to
blame victims for their misfortune, so that one
feels less likely to be victimized in a similar

Forming Impressions of Others, continued
Key themes in person perception:
– Efficiency – when forming impressions of
others, we default to automatic processing.
– Selectivity – we “see what we expect to see”
by focusing on aspects of the person that
confirm our expectations (see Figure 7.6).
– Consistency – First impressions do matter!
Once a perceiver has formed an impression of
someone, he or she tunes out subsequent
information. This is called the primacy effect.

Figure 7.6. Descriptions of the guest lecturer in Kelley’s (1950) study. These two descriptions,
provided to two groups of students before the lecturer spoke, differ by only an adjective. But this seemingly
small difference caused the two groups to form altogether different perceptions of the lecturer.

The Problem of Prejudice, continued

Prejudice – “a negative attitude toward
members of a group”.
Discrimination – “involves behaving
differently, usually unfairly, toward the
members of a group”.
• Prejudice and discrimination often go
together, but this is not always the case
(see Figure 7.7).
– Sometimes, we are not even aware of our
prejudices as demonstrated by the
Implicit Association Test.

Figure 7.7. Prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice and discrimination are highly correlated, but they
don’t necessarily go hand in hand. As the examples in the blue cells show, there can be prejudice without
discrimination and discrimination without prejudice.

Implicit Association Test

The Problem of Prejudice, continued

“Old-fashioned” vs. modern discrimination
– “Old-fashioned”, or overt, discrimination has
declined in recent years, but a more subtle
(“modern”) form of discrimination has
– Modern discrimination occurs when “people
privately harbor negative attitudes toward
minority groups, but express them only when
they feel such views are justified, or that it’s
safe to do so” (see Figure 7.8).

Figure 7.8. Measuring old-fashioned and modern sexism. Research shows similarities between old-fashioned
and modern beliefs about both racism and sexism. Janet Swim and colleagues (1995) have developed a scale to
measure the presence of both types of sexism. Four items from the 13-item scale are shown here. Old-fashioned
sexism is characterized by endorsement of traditional gender roles and acceptance of stereotypes that portray
females as less competent than males. In contrast, subtle, modern sexism is characterized by denial of continued
discrimination and rejection of policies intended to help women.
From Swim, J.K., Aikin, K.J., Hall, W.S., & Hunter, B.A. (1995). Sexism and racism: Old-fashioned and modern
prejudices. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 199-214. Copyright © 1995 American Psychological
Association. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The Problem of Prejudice, continued

Causes of prejudice
1. The authoritarian personality, a
“personality type characterized by prejudice
toward any group perceived to be different
from oneself”.
2. Cognitive distortions and expectations
such as stereotyping, fundamental
attribution error, defensive attributions, and

The Problem of Prejudice, continued
Causes of prejudice, continued
3. Competition between groups – perceived
threats to one’s group, such as conflict over
scarce resources, causes prejudice against
outgroup members.
4. Threats to social identity – when the
collective self-esteem of a group is
threatened, two response may occur:
• Ingroup favoritism.
• Outgroup denigration.

The Problem of Prejudice, continued

Reducing prejudice
– Cognitive strategies – make an effort to
override stereotypes by using controlled
– Intergroup contact
• Superordinate goals – “goals that
require two or more groups to work
together to achieve mutual ends” can
reduce intergroup hostility.

The Power of Persuasion, continued

Persuasion – “involves the communication
of arguments and information intended to
change another person’s attitudes”.
– Attitudes – include “beliefs and feelings
about people, objects, and ideas”.

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