Social Perception & Attribution Theory

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Social Perception & Attribution Theory

Areas of Focus::

Areas of Focus: Perceptions of Physical Attractiveness Primacy Effect: First Impressions Recency Effect: What have you done for me lately? The Roles of Expectations (self-fulfilling prophesies & the Pygmalion Effect) Dispositional vs. Situational Attributions Major Attributional Errors

Social Perception:

Social Perception Subfield of social psych. that studies the ways in which we form & modify our impressions of other people.

Research on Physical Attractiveness:

Research on Physical Attractiveness Attractive people tend to be rated & treated more positively (Langlois et al., 2000) We assume & expect attractive people to be more poised, sociable, popular, intelligent, mentally healthy, fulfilled, persuasive, and successful in their jobs & marriages (Feingold, 1992) WHY?

The Flip Side:

The Flip Side We do NOT assume attractive people to be more honest or concerned about others No connection exists between attractiveness and actual intelligence, talents, or abilities (Feingold, 1992)

The Importance of 1st Impressions:

The Importance of 1st Impressions Solomon Asch (1946) Primacy Effect : The tendency to evaluate others in terms of first impressions. We form lasting impressions of someone based on limited info

Handshakes: The Key to 1st Impressions?:

Handshakes: The Key to 1 st Impressions? Assess your neighbor’s handshake Firm : Outgoing & open to new experience Weak : Shyness & social anxiety (Chaplin et. al., 2000)

The Halo Effect:

The Halo Effect The tendency to generalize a favorable 1 st impression to unrelated personal characteristics It is the idea that global evaluations about a person (e.g. she is likeable) bleed over into judgments about their specific traits (e.g. she is intelligent). More on the Halo Effect

1st Impressions Don’t Always Matter:

1st Impressions Don’t Always Matter Recency Effect : The tendency to evaluate others in terms of the most recent impression they leave on us. “What have you done for me lately?”

The Role of Expectations: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:

The Role of Expectations: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy The expectations we have about others can influence how we behave towards them, or even how they behave. If you’re told someone you haven’t met is funny, when you do meet him, you might treat him in a way as to elicit the funny behaviors you expect of him.

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( Snyder, Tanke & Berscheid , 1977) Attractiveness Stereotype Men received “background” info about a woman they were about to talk with on a phone, info included a photo. Women received same info, but no photo. IV: Photo of woman (either attractive or unattractive) DV: Man’s rating of the woman’s behavior Results: When men expected that the woman was attractive, she was judged as friendly, warm, and more animated than when men believed they were talking with an unattractive woman. (self-fulfilling prophecy)

The Pygmalion Effect:

The Pygmalion Effect Rosenthal and Jacobson’s (1968) “Pygmalion in the Classroom” experiment Teachers given “IQ data” about a randomly selected set of students prior to start of school year Told “these are the ‘smart’ kids.” At end of year, the identified students out-performed their peers The greater the expectation placed upon people , the better they perform.

How do people attempt to explain the causes of behavior?:

How do people attempt to explain the causes of behavior? We all form impressions very QUICKLY. We don’t observe traits, we observe behaviors . But we tend assume that one’s personal traits are the reason for his/her behavior.

What is Attribution Theory?:

What is Attribution Theory? We make ATTRIBUTIONS : Assumptions about why people behave in a certain way.

Types of Attributions::

Types of Attributions: Sometimes we make Dispositional Attributions : We explain behavior as due to a person’s internal characteristics (their personality)

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Sometimes we make Situational Attributions : Something outside the person (the situation) caused the behavior.

Gender Differences in Attributions:

Gender Differences in Attributions Perception of friendly behavior Males: smile/friendliness = flirting

Making Attributions:

Making Attributions You see Mr. K. at Outback Steakhouse, and he gets angry at the waiter.  You (the observer ) make attributions about my behavior (the actor ) based on 3 main criteria:

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1) Consensus Are other people behaving the same way? 2) Consistency Does Mr. K. do this at other restaurants? 3) Distinctiveness Does Mr. K. act this way in other situations? Is he simply not easy to please?

What are the consequences of making attributions?:

What are the consequences of making attributions? We tend to underestimate the impact of the situation AND overestimate the impact of personal disposition Attributions distort our views of others (a filtered view of reality)

Effects of Attributions:

Effects of Attributions How we explain someone’s behavior affects how we react to it.

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Major Attributional Biases: The Errors we make in perceiving others

1) Fundamental Attribution Error:

1) Fundamental Attribution Error The tendency to over-attribute other people’s behavior to internal factors. Called “fundamental” because it’s so widespread. We commit the FAE all the time!

Fundamental Attribution Error:

Fundamental Attribution Error The product of an individualistic society (Independence, free-will) Much less likely in collectivist cultures. We may end up blaming the victim (E.g. when we see the homeless

ALWAYS keep in mind the situation! (Is it just the person, or could it be the situation?) :

ALWAYS keep in mind the situation! (Is it just the person, or could it be the situation?)

2) Actor-Observer Effect :

2) Actor-Observer Effect Similar to the FAE The tendency to over-attribute others’ behavior to internal causes but attribute your own behavior to external causes .

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2) Actor-Observer Effect Road rage A fight with mom or dad Conflicts between nations

3) Self-Serving Bias :

3) Self-Serving Bias The tendency to take credit for success (attributing it to internal characteristics) but to blame external causes for failure. Test grades! People w/ depression display the opposite

4) Just-World Bias:

4) Just-World Bias The assumption that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people.

5) False-Consensus Effect:

5) False-Consensus Effect The tendency for people to overestimate the number of people who agree with them. I hate ______ so other must hate ______ too.

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