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Information is processed in two ways

- Automatic: unconscious, unintentional, involuntary, effortless
- Controlled:conscious, intentional, voluntary, effort


Automatic processing - Schemas

- Schemas: mental structure for organizing and storing social information
Advantages of schemas: efficient, reduced ambiguity, preparedness
Disadvantages: we only notice information that fits our schemas, dismiss information that doesn't fit


How to select schemas

3 kinds of accessibility:
- chronic accessibility: past experiences
- Temporary accessibility: current goals OR current activity

Current activity - priming: exposure to something makes us think a certain way
Donald experiment: given crossword with either positive word list or negative word list; then told story about Donald (no job, sails the world etc..). Results: people with negative word list thought badly of Donald, people given positive word list thought well of Donald



- example: flashed either legal or neutral words on screen too fast to be consciously aware; then read ambiguous meeting of two people and asked what they think; Results: those with legal stuff said the scenario was competitive and less trustworthy than people who were primed with neutral words

Activated through physical sensation:
- examples: in clean scented room people more trusting of stranger and more willing to spend on charity than in no scent
- examples: people holding hot cup of coffee more likely to think others are nice than if cold cup


Schema and memory

- Often remember things wrong
Study: • Carli (1999) marriage proposal/assault study
- Same story, but ending is different – one he proposes and other he rapes her; participants read either one and then come back later and read through list of events and asked whether events were part of the story; Results: both groups misremembered events that happened

This is why eye-witness testimony isn't trustworthy


Perseverance effect

- People's schemas are resistant to change
Ross et al. study – fake feedback was given on performance either good or bad; at end of experiment they were told that the feedback was TOTALLY made up; then asked how they would do if it was real; people who were given bad feedback said they’d do bad, people given good feedback said they’d do good


Self-fulfilling prophecies

- inadvertently making schemas come true by the way we treat people
- expectations --> our behaviour --> other’s behaviours --> expectations and so on (ex: have expectancy or social theory about someone "he's a snob"; behave toward person in manner consistent with your idea "walk by, not say hi"; they respond to your behaviour "what a jerk! I guess I'll ignore him too"; you see their behaviour as proof that your expectations were right without realizing the role you played in their behaviour "I knew he was a jerk!"'; cycle restarts)

EX: Rosenthal Bloomers study: Teachers were told that specific students were prodigies....therefore taught them differently/better; at end of school year their grades were highest in class


Heuristics (mental shortcuts)

We use heuristics when we don't have a schema for the situation or when we have too many schemas to choose from
*Judgement heuristics


Availability heuristics

- availability of relevant information; how easily it comes to mind
- ex: if asked if your buddy "Mark" was generous your response would depend on how easily it is for you to think of examples
- also; if asked to generate 3 examples of when mark was generous you're likely to be able to do it and say oh yah he's generous or if asked to generate 6 and you can't you'll feel like he isn't


Representativeness heuristics

- classify something based on how similar it is to a typical case
- use base rate information (% of a type of person in that population for example)
- ignore base rate information if other information present


Cultural differences in thinking style

Western: analytic thinking; focus on object rather than context
East Asian: holistic thinking; focus on overall context

STUDY: show image with slight differences in context or main object of photo; westerns noticed more differences in the main objects; east asians more in the context


Controlled processing

- people have tendency to believe everything we hear...until something makes us stop and think
- When accuracy is important, switch to controlled processing – requires motivation and energy


Strategies in thought suppression

- Monitoring; scanning unwanted thoughts (automatic)
- Operating; effortful, conscious attempt to distract oneself by finding something else to think about (controlled)


Contributions to faulty thought suppression

- fatigue, stress, preoccupation
- automatic monitoring is working, but controlled operating isn't


Upward counterfactual reasoning

- attempt to rewrite the past
- imagine outcomes that are better than reality
Use this when negative events happen or near misses
ex: policy of never picking up hitch hikers but you do and they end up mugging you - "if only I had stuck to my policy"
ex: miss the bus by 5 minutes - "if only I had left 5 minutes earlier"

- people feel more sympathy when negative events occur that are unusual and near misses
ex: more sympathy if someone gets into accident on alternate route home
ex: 2nd place in olympics rather than 3rd OR 1/10000th of a second away from winning

- used more often in tragic/more distress
- Utility: lesson for futures, motivation


Downward counterfactual reasoning

- imagining outcomes that are worse than reality
ex: I'm in a wheelchair but I could have been killed in that accident
- relief/silver lining


Overconfidence barrier

- people tend to be really confident in the accuracy of their judgements; but judgements usually not as correct as they think they are
- Solutions: consider alternate points of view, improved reasoning