Social Cognition

* Schemas
    - Definition
    - Functions
    - Hastorf & Cantril (1954)

* Heuristics
    - Definitions
    - Examples
    - Repercussions
 

Schemas

* Definition: mental structures that we use to organize our knowledge of the social world according to theme or subject
* Functions:
    - allow us to relate the present to the past
    - allow us to make sense of unfamiliar stimuli
    - allow us to conserve cognitive energy
 

Schemas Distort Our Perceptions

* Hastorf & Cantril (1954)
    - independent and dependent variables?
    - conceptual and operational definitions?
    - discussion of results
    - for what other venues might these results have implications?
 

Judgmental Heuristics

* Just as schemas allow us to interpret novel stimuli while conserving cognitive effort, heuristics allow us to conserve
effort in making judgments
* Definition: mental shortcuts we use to make judgments quickly and efficiently
 

Which is more common?

Words with the letter "r" as the first letter
                            vs.
Words with the letter "r" as the third letter
 
 
Words with "r"

First Letter
Rare
Round
Rage
Read
Red
Rise
Raise
Rich
 
Third Letter
Dare
Hire
Dark
Merry

But it tuns out that the correct answer is that there are more words with "r" as the third letter!
 

Availability Heuristic

* Definition: Mental shortcut that leads people to base a judgment on the ease with which something can be brought to mind
* In other words, basing judgments on the availability of certain mental concepts, ideas, or examples
 

What does Sharon do?

* In Sommers, Inc., a Fortune 500 computer software company, there are 20 office staff employees (administration, secretarial,
and sales) and 80 computer programmers.
* Sharon works for Sommers, Inc.  She is a tall, attractive 28-year-old woman who knows how to touch type, communicates
well with other people, and loves her job.
* What is the likelihood (from 0-100%) that Sharon is an office staff employee?
 

More about Sharon

* The best estimate that Sharon is an office staff employee would be 20%
* Touch typing, working well with others, and being an attractive woman are no more diagnostic of a secretary than it is
a computer programmer
* But in our society, we consider those qualities representative of secretarial workers, thus we tend to give a probability of
higher than 20%
 

Representativeness Heuristic

* Definition: Mental shortcut where people classify something according to how similar it seems to a typical case
* In other words, basing judgments on how representative something is of a given category or classification
* Use of this heuristic typically means underuse of base rate information
 

Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic

* Have the NY Yankees won more or fewer than 10 World Series?  How many have they won?
* By throwing that anchor "10" out there, I can influence your adjustment and ultimate estimate
* Definition: Mental shortcut that involves using a value as a starting point and adjusting away from that anchor; people
often fail to adjust sufficiently
 

Effects of Heuristics

* Heuristics allow us to make quick judgments and maintain our status as cognitive misers
* In many situations, such as these classroom examples, there are no negative repercussions to relying on heuristics
* But in many cases, accurate judgments are more essential (e.g., medical diagnosis, perceptions of a potential mate, job
interviews, etc.)
* In these cases, we are more like motivated tacticians
 

Conclusions

* Heuristics are good shortcuts for navigating us through much of daily social life
* But when accuracy is essential, we need to think things through more carefully and attend to base-rate information and
issues of biased sampling
* Even when accuracy is important, we aren't always successful in achieving it, however
 

Automatic Processing

* Definition: Thinking that is nonconscious and effortless
* Advantages: Allows us to navigate the social world without spending a lot of effort on mundane, trivial matters
* Disadvantages: We sometimes jump to automatic conclusions that are inaccurate (e.g., stereotypes, self-fulfilling prophecies)
 

Controlled Processing

* Definition: Thinking that is conscious and effortful
* Advantages: Most of the complicated, impressive mental feats that set us apart as human beings are controlled
* Disadvantages: Require a great deal of cognitive effort and motivation, distracting us from other tasks and issues
 

Dual-Process Models
 

* Many psychological models assume that we undergo an automatic process at first, but then go back and make controlled corrections
    - automatic believing, controlled disbelieving
    - stereotype activation and suppression
    - thought suppression and distraction
    - dispositional attribution and situational correction

 

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