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Define perception

Obtaining awareness and understanding of a phenomenon based on information obtained through the senses


Describe Social Perception


How we decide what other people are like.

The process through which we use information in the environment and our past experiences to form impressions (awareness & understanding) of other people. 

  • Most people make systematic mistakes in assessing others.


2 elements of social perception

Internal Consistency (Cognitive Dissonance) people seek consistency in their thoughts

External Accuracy (Attribution Theory) how people attribute causes of their own and other’s behaviours


Describe Cognitive Dissonance

The uncomfortable tension from holding two conflicting, inconsistent thoughts simultaneously.


3 ways of resolving dissonance:

To become consonant, these thoughts have to be either

  • lowered in their importance or
  • the inconsistency is resolved.


Self: Change how we view ourselves

  • “I am a healthy person who gives credit to scientific research.”

Environment: Change our environment; Acquire new information

  • “I will avoid smokers. I will leave the room when people start smoking.”

Others: Change how we view others; Forget/reduce importance of dissonant cognitions

  • “My smoker friends have no ambitions. No wonder they can’t give up smoking.”


How can we use Cognitive Dissonance to shape behaviour?

Insufficient Punishment 

  • Mild punishment that succeeds in stopping a behaviour will create dissonance that will be reduced by subsequent lowering of the initial attraction toward that behaviour

Justification of Effort

  • If a person works hard to attain a goal, that goal will be more attractive to him or her than to someone who achieves the goal with little or no effort.


2 applications of CD to organisations

Because people will try to resovle their cognitivei dissonance, organisations can use their dissonance to change people’s attitudes/behaviours towards their jobs.


Justification of effort

  • Unpaid internships: If I am willing to except the unpaid internships then I justify to myself that I really want to work for this company. 
  • Recruitment: you go through a lengthy recruitment process , you must really want that position. 
  • Compensation: short term behavioural change can be attribute to external rewards, but if rewards are small individual have to justify their efforts and find an internal motive why they are doing it. If it is not worth the money- maybe I really like it/ or a good lesson.

Insufficient punishment

  • Mild penalties for bad behaviour


Attribution Theory / External Accuracy

What are 4 cognitive biases that influence our evauations of other's behaviour or causes of events?

1) Fundamental attribution error:

  • Attributing the behaviours of others to dispositional (internal) factors, without considering situational (external) factors 
  • Example: Healthy-looking person taking the disabled seat during peak time. Situational factor: the person had a recent operation

2) Self-serving bias:

  • In others, we tend to attribute failure to internal reasons and success to external reasons.
  • In ourselves, we tend to attribute failures to external reasons and successes to internal reasons.

3) Halo error

  • We tend to draw on single characteristics when making global evaluations of individuals.
  • Attractive students get better grades, handsome criminals get lighter sentences, and good-looking employees get higher pay
  • Taller individuals make more money than shorter individuals

4) Person sensitivity bias

  • We tend to be more sensitive to the performance of individuals (i.e., over rewarding them when they do well, harshly punishing them when they do poorly) than we are of inanimate objects
  • For example, coaches are often over-punished or over-rewarded for the performance of their team


Kelley’s Theory of Causal Attribution

A certain behaviour gets attributed to its potential causes based on the circumstances that appear at the same time as its behaviour. Attributions are based on three criteria:

Consensus: the extent to which others behave similarly to the person we are judging

  • Consensus = high --> situational factors (External);
  • Consensus = low --> dispositional factors (Internal)

Consistency: the extent to which the person we are judging acts the same at other times in the same context

  • Consistency = high --> internal;
  • Consistency = low --> external

Distinctiveness: The extent to which this person does not act in the same way in other contexts

  • Distinctiveness= high --> external;
  • Distinctiveness= low --> internal


Aronson Experiment (1997)

People had to individually perform a boring task as part of a study. The researcher offered one group $1 and the other $20 to tell the lie that they found this task not boring. 

Of those who agreed, the $1 group had a lower CD because the financial (external) aspect was not enough to justify their behaviour so they convinced themselves that the task was actually not as boring as they had previously thought. 

The $20 group had higher CD because the financial justification was enough to lie, which means they didn’t need to convince themselves and did not change their mind, which caused them to have inconsistent thoughts simultaneously.


Vicarious Dissonance

Occurs when an individual places him or herself in a hypocrite's position and empathises with the other's feelings.

For example, say that you hear a coworker strongly disagree with a paper that Smith wrote. Later that day, you happen to overhear her conversing with Smith and praising the paper. You wonder how she must feel, privately loathing the paper, but publicly supporting it. You would feel distraught (upset and worried) at this hypocrisy.



Motivations for eliminating cognitive dissonance

The motivation to make dissonant thoughts congruent can come from factors such as:

  • importance of the subject,
  • control over the occurrence of the dissonance,
  • rewards for achieving consonance,
  • people want to be predictable, have consistent thoughts


Belief-Disconfirmation Paradigm

gravitation to others with the same belief


Induced Compliance Paradigm

A person does something against their belief in response to a incentive motivation (desired reward or fear of punishment).


The role of cognitive dissonance in perpetrating conflict

IT plays a large role in perpetrating and eliminating conflict. People are unwilling to look at new information. CD is too unpleasant and close-mindedness too easy. The disbelief of the Jews during WWII is also CD, trying to rationalise in different ways that things were not so bad.


Cognitive Dissonance and Attitude Change

It was also previously thought that attitudes must be changed before behaviour could be changed.

According to the dissonance theory, it might be easier to change the environment first, and then attitudes would follow.

If a person cannot change his or her environment, then he or she can only change the view of oneself or others.


The application of dissonance theory in shaping human behaviour and beliefs

1st application: Punishment

If you severely punish someone for aggressiveness, it does not mean that he learned that it’s wrong to be aggressive. 

In order to reduce undesirable behaviour, the punishment must be just severe enough to stop the behaviour, but mild enough that dissonance is created such that the actors might think something like "I can't have stopped this behaviour because of the punishment...because that is nothing… maybe it's that I don't like this behaviour."

2nd application: Increasing commitment

In order to increase commitment towards a goal, team, or organization, the initiation into that particular context must be difficult enough that the individual thinks something like "I must like or want this because I usually would not have gone through this...or because I have gone through so much to get here."


another term for cognitive dissonance

internal consistency

people seek consistency in their thoughts


another term for attribution theory

external accuracy