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Links:   •  Self Test
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               •  Perceiving Our Social Worlds
                •  Judging Our Social World
                 •  Explaining our social world
                  •  Expectations of Our Social World
                   •  Social Psychology Index

Ψ  Social Beliefs
and Judgments

We construct social perceptions & beliefs as we

        •  perceive & recall events through the filters of our own assumptions.
         •  judge events, by our intuition, by rules, & by our moods.
          •  explain events by sometimes attributing them to the situation, or the person.
           •  expect certain events, which sometimes helps bring them about.

Perceiving Our Social Worlds

     Ψ  We respond not to reality as it is but to reality as we construe it.

     Ψ  Priming

        •  Our memory system is a web of associations, & priming is the awakening or activating of certain associations.
         •  Priming effects surface even when the stimuli are presented subliminally (too briefly to be perceived consciously).
         •  Much of our social information processing is automatic. It is unintentional, out of sight, & happens without our conscious awareness. We can be primed to do things we might not otherwise do.

     Ψ  Perceiving & Interpreting Events

        •  Experiments have planted judgments or false ideas in people’s minds after they have been given information. These experiments reveal that before-the-fact judgments bias our perceptions & interpretations & that after-the-fact judgments bias our recall. Note: Even so, we are mostly right when perceiving & interpreting events.

     Ψ  Belief Perseverance

        •  Persistence of one’s initial conceptions (first inpressions), when the basis for one’s belief is discredited. This is one explanation of why a belief might be true still survives.

     Ψ  Constructing Memories of Ourselves & Our Worlds

        •  Misinformation effect: Incorporating “misinformation” into one’s memory of the event, after witnessing an event & receiving misleading information about it.

        •  Far from being a repository for facts about the past, our memories are actually formed when we retrieve them, and subject to strong influence by the attitudes and feelings we hold at the time of retrieval."  Memories are reconstructed.

        •  Memories are not copies of experiences that we retrieve intact, rather they are reconstructions. As reconstructions they are subject to our current personal bias & attitudes. We can revise our own histories & do, making ourselves look better.

        •  People often exhibit rosy retrospection. That is, they recall mildly pleasant events more favorably than they were.

Judging Our Social World

     Ψ  Intuition: The ability to sense or know immediately without reasoning.

     Ψ  Intuition (knowledge): understanding without apparent effort, quick & ready insight seemingly independent of previous experiences or empirical knowledge.

     Ψ  For a really insightful look at the the significance of intuition in relation to decision making I recommend that you read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell. which popularizes research from psychology & behavioral economics on the adaptive unconscious; mental processes that work rapidly & automatically from relatively little information. It considers both the strengths of the adaptive unconscious, for example in expert judgment, & its pitfalls such as stereotypes. Gladwell proposes that "Thin-slicing" ( our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience ) is often as good as or even better than carefully planned & considered decision making processes.

     Ψ  In psychology Intuition is one of the four axes of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, opposite "Sensing". The "SN" preference refers to how we gather information. We all need data on which to base our decisions. We gather data through our five senses. Jung contended that there are 2 distinct ways of perceiving the data that we gather. The "Sensing" preference absorbs data in a literal, concrete fashion. The "Intuitive" preference generates abstract possibilities from information that is gathered. We all use both Sensing & Intuition in our lives, but to different degrees of effectiveness & with different levels of comfort.

     Ψ  Intuition: automatic thinking.

Examples of Automatic Thinking (intuition):

     Ψ  A Schema is a template of what we are like & is a model for how we understand the social world around us. A schema becomes a pattern imposed on complex experiences to simplify, organize or guide our response.

     Ψ  Emotional reactions are often nearly instantaneous, i.e. made without thinking.

     Ψ  With enough expertise, you may intuitively know the answer to a problem.

     Ψ  Faced with a decision but lacking the expertise to make an informed snap judgment,our unconscious thinking may guide us toward a satisfying choice. When facing a tough decision it often pays to take our time & to await the intuitive result of our out-of-sight information processing.

     Ψ  Some things such as skills & conditioned dispositions we remember implicitly, we don't have to think about them to use (do) them.


     Ψ  The term blindsight refers to a "medical condition in which the sufferer responds to visual stimuli without consciously perceiving them" and is associated with damage to the primary visual cortex (V1). These claims can be backed up with experimental data; subjects that for all intensive purposes should be blind have retained the extraordinary ability to discriminate stimuli without the compliment of a primary visual cortex or awareness that an event has occurred. How is this possible? Many psychologists have long hypothesized that most of the stimuli that we encounter never reach our conscious awareness. However, it can be seen in blindsight research that behavior can be directed by the unconscious processing (intuition) of these stimuli indicating that conscious awareness is not a sufficient requirement to behave in the world. While the true depths of the unconscious may never be known, blindsight does provide a crude measure of the unconscious' transfer of perception to behavior.

•  Link to Prosopagnosia

     Ψ  Prosopagnosia (sometimes known as face blindness) is a rare disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, although the ability to recognize objects may be relatively intact. It usually appears to result from brain injury or neurological illness affecting specific areas of the brain, although more recently cases of congenital or developmental prosopagnosia have also been reported. People with face blindness react intuitively to pictures of people they know even though they cannot recognize them.


     Ψ  We can process large amounts of data efficiently & automatically, but our automatic intuitions often err, & usually we don't even realize our flaws so we continue to operate in the same ways with optimism. The overconfidence phenomenon refers to the human tendency to be more confident in one's behaviors, attributes & physical characteristics than one ought to be.

     Ψ  Ironically, incompetence feeds overconfidence. (Kuger & Dunning (1999)

     Ψ  Overconfidence bias may cause people to persist in situations where their expected outcome is poor. In some situations, this might cause them to improve their outcomes via greater effort. Nevertheless, this bias can be counterproductive.

     Ψ  Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice & to look for what confirms one's beliefs, & to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs. Confirmation bias justifies overconfidence.


     1.  Get prompt feedback.
      2.  Consider disconfirming information. (Force yourself.)

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

     Ψ  Heuristics: Mental Shortcuts

        •  Heuristic: A thinking strategy that enables quick, efficient judgments.
        •  Representativeness Heuristic: The tendency to presume, sometimes despite contrary odds, that someone or something belongs to a particular group if resembling (representing) a typical member. People tend to judge the probability of an event by finding a ‘comparable known’ event & assuming that the probabilities will be similar.
        •  Availability Heuristic: A cognitive rule that judges the likelihood of things in terms of their availability in memory. If instances of something come readily to mind, we presume it to be commonplace.
        •  Availability Heuristic: Vivid, memorable—and therefore cognitively available—events influence our perception of the social world. The resulting “probability neglect” often leads people to fear the wrong things.

     Ψ  Counterfactual Thinking: Imagining alternative scenarios and outcomes that might have happened, but didn’t.

     Ψ  Illusory Thinking

        •  Illusory Thinking:  Our search for order in random events.
         •  Illusory Correlation: Perception of a relationship where none exists, or perception of a stronger relationship than actually exists.
          •  Illusion of Control: Perception of uncontrollable events as subject to one’s control or as more controllable than they are.
           •  Regression Toward The Average: The statistical tendency for extreme scores or extreme behavior to return toward one’s average.

     Ψ  Moods & Judgments

        •  "Social judgment involves efficient, though fallible, information processing. It also involves our feelings: Our moods infuse our judgments. Good and bad moods trigger memories of experiences associated with those moods. Moods color our interpretations of current experiences. And by distracting us, moods can also influence how deeply or superficially we think when making judgments."

Explaining Our Social World

     Ψ  Attribution theory is concerned with how individuals interpret events & how this relates to their thinking and behavior. Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do. A person seeking to understand why another person did something may attribute one or more causes to that behavior.

     Ψ  According to Feitz Heider(1958) & others a person can make two attributions (1) internal attribution (dispositional attribution), the inference that a person is behaving in a certain way because of something about the person, such as attitude, character or personality. (2) external attribution (situational attribution), the inference that a person is behaving a certain way because of something about the situation he or she is in.

     Ψ  Spontaneous Trait Inference: An effortless, automatic inference of a trait after exposure to someone’s behavior.

    Ψ  Harold Kelley's Covariation model says that, in making attributions, we should look for factors that are present when the behavior occurs & factors that are absent when the behavior does not occur.

         Ψ  Covariation factors:
         •  Consensus refers to the individual's tendency to do the same sort of thing in a given situation.
         •  Consistency means determining whether the person engages in this behavior every time he or she is in a particular situation.
         •  Distinctiveness means determining how differently the person behaves in one situation when compared to other situations.

    •  When a behavior is high in all three of these criteria, we tend to see a person's motive as situational. When consistency is high but the other two criteria are low, then we tend to see a behavior as motivated by dispositional factors. Notice that in order for us to make a confident attribution judgment, consistency must be high - that is, the individual must always or usually behave this way in a given situation.

    Ψ  Two 'rules' (general tendencies) in attribution are the discounting rule, a tendency to discount dispositional factors when a behavior is what is expected in the situation, & the augmentation rule, a tendency toward dispositional attributions when a behavior is contrary to what is expected in a situation.

The Fundamental Attribution Error  FAE

    Ψ  In attribution theory, the fundamental attribution error a.k.a. correspondence bias,  is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role & power of situational influences on the same behavior.

    Ψ  In other words, people tend to have a default assumption that what a person does is based more on what "kind" of person he or she is, rather than the social and environmental forces at work on that person. This default assumption leads to people sometimes making erroneous explanations for behavior. This general bias to over-emphasizing dispositional explanations for behavior at the expense of situational explanations is much less likely to occur when people evaluate their own behavior (Actor/Observer Difference).

    Ψ  Actor/Observer Difference: People who are observing an action are much more likely than the actor to make the fundamental attribution error.

     •  Camera Perspective Bias: Whoever the camera focuses on has the most creditability.

     Ψ  Perspectives Change with Time: When making attributions as the once-visible person recedes in their memory, observers often give more & more credit to the situation.

     Ψ  Self-awareness: A self-conscious state in which attention focuses on oneself. It makes people more sensitive to their own attitudes & dispositions. When our attention focuses upon ourselves, we often attribute responsibility to ourselves.

    Ψ  There is some evidence to support the contention that cultures which tend to emphasize the individual over the group ("individualistic" cultures - like ours) tend to make more dispositional attributions than do the "collectivist" cultures. Persons living in more individualistic societies may be more likely to commit the fundamental attribution error(Miller,1984).

Expectations of Our Social World

    Ψ  The concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy (a.k.a. the Pygmalion effect) can be summarized as follows;

1.  Expectations of people or events are formed.
 2. The expectations with various cues are communicated.
  3.  People tend to respond to these cues by changing their
       behavior to match them.
    4.  The original expectation then becomes true.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

    Ψ  Teacher Expectations & Student Performance

     •  People will rise to meet the expectations placed upon them. This includes behavior, academic success & social skills.

    Ψ  A special type of self-fulfilling prophecy that has engendered particular interest among social psychologists is behavioral confirmation, in which people's social expectations lead then to behave in ways that cause others to confirm their expectations.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates

New  He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.

- Sigmund Freud