PSY220 - 4. Expectancies and Attribution theory Flashcards Preview

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Encoding: Hamilton, Katz & Leier (1980).

a.subjects read 30 behaviors describing a target person.
b.Half explicitly told to “form an impression” half told to memorize the list of behaviors.
c.After a delay, recall as many behaviors as possible.


Asch (1946): Are there lawful principles that govern the formation of impressions about people?

Make models that are simpler, yet reflective of messy real life. (e.g., trait list paradigm) Elegant control and manipulation. From one study to the next, he made minute changes in the paradigm and eventually certain regularities or “laws” were uncovered.


impression formation

the whole is different from the sum of the parts.
Impressions are coherent, are “concepts.”


The primacy effect

Impressions, once formed, have a life of their own: able to remember their impression of someone long after the specific behaviors are long forgotten.
Because impressions are somewhat independent of the actual “evidence,” they are difficult to overturn.


Two ways of forming an impression

On-line vs. memory-based


Hastie & Park (1986)

a.Randomly assigned subjects to either on-line or memory-based conditions.
b.On-line” subjects told to form their impression as they went, updating as they go along. “Memory-based” only asked for their impression after reading the sentences.


Hastie & Park (1986)

c.viewed exact same sentences reached very diff judgments of target. mem-based subjects, judgment correlated with recall, for online, judgment not correlated with recall. online, order mattered, for mem-based order didn’t matter.


How do people handle unexpected information about someone?

Logically, there are three possibilities:
1)more attention + scrutiny to unexpected info
2)less attention + scrutiny to unexpected info
3)no more/less attention + scrutiny to unexpected info.
Person memory


Hastie & Kumar (1979):

Told participants person was intelligent
b. presented participants with list of behaviors by person, an equal amount of intelligent behaviors (“won a chess tournament”), unintelligent behaviors (“same mistake three times”) and irrelevant behaviors (“took the elevator”).
c.After long delay asked to recall as many behaviors as they could.


Incongruency Effect

better memory for unexpected information
Irrelevant Consistent Inconsistent
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better memory for unexpected + info that can be assimilated to schema of person
Yet ppl clearly sometimes prefer consistent info, too – in accord with “assimilation to a concept” idea


So when do people devote more cog resources to consistent and when to inconsistent?

Metaanalysis: identify key variable for when they prefer consistent/inconsistent: depends on perciever’s goal


Stangor & McMillan (1992):

Accurate Good enough
incongruency effect congruency effect
Confirmation bias: not knowing to look for disconfirming evidence
Thinking more about inconsistent behaviour because trying to make it fit
More cognitive resources for detailed processing which leads to better memory


Sherman et al. (1998):

Stereotypes “liberate resources” that often allocated toward inconsistent info (more informative/diagnostic).


Plaks et al. (2001):

not necessarily!
Implicit theories of personality
Entity theory: belief ppl’s traits fixed
Incremental theory: traits malleable
artsy or sciency
situationaly prime ppl by making them read phony articles indicating proof of either theory
entity theorists showed congruency effect
incremental theorists showed incongruency effect


Another variable that predicts congruency vs. incongruency: familiarity

1. read behavioral descriptions of members of 2 college fraternities, one frat mostly extraverted, one mostly introverted.
2. Beforehand, ½ of Ps saw a presentation containing 30 behaviors performed by one of the frats.
3. All Ps saw a presentation of 60 behaviors by both frats (30 each).
4. Later memory recall task.


Another variable that predicts congruency vs. incongruency: familiarity

Greater congruency effects for Ps with more information
More they were invested in confirming + less attention to disconfirming info that leads to strong congruency effects + confirmation bias



Foundation for more complex human behavior (e.g., altruism, aggression).


Perception (objects or people)

phenomenology: 1-to-1 correspondence betw “what I see” + “what is the out there” (i“feels” simple, direct, & accurate)
reality: Perception not simple, involves many steps, + often inaccurate (though it is generally lawful ).



Unconscious inferences from built-in assumptions “fill in the gaps.”
Without assumptions, difficult time making sense of the world.
BUT: sometimes lead to mistakes, illusions.
built in assumptions that disambiguates process that can also lead to illusions


HEIDER and the Logical/ Attributional Approach

inferential processes by which we understand ppl based on behaviour/appearance similar to how we understand objects based on their motion/appearance .
Common: Basic principles of causal analysis.


Principles of Causal Inference (according to Heider, 1958)

1.Attribution is vital + pervasive. lends meaning + order to what would otherwise be chaotic array of stimuli.
2. Behaviours express stable dispositions. “medium for transmission of psychological characteristics.” Expressing underlying disposition through behaviour


Principles of Causal Inference (according to Heider, 1958)

3. Attribution extracts dispositions from behaviour.
–People have the implicit understanding that behaviour often reflects dispositions.
–When people see someone act they perform additional step of attribution that establishes causal link between behaviour + disposition.


Principles of Causal Inference (according to Heider, 1958)

Aggressive acts attributed to personality unconsciously
4. Attributions can be performed consciously or unconsciously.
–rules of attribution become so automatized over time that we can follow them without awareness.


Principles of Causal Inference (according to Heider, 1958)

–Attributions often have a “given” quality; they “feel” like direct perception that has not undergone additional cognitive steps.
Seems to be afforded by behaviour rather than perception
Attribution = causal analysis


Heider: How does causal analysis work? What are the assumptions?

1. Behavior is joint product of temporary + enduring causes.
Aggressive behaviour maybe because of the situation but in general see contribution more from enduring underlying nature
2. Behavior requires actor can + tries to do it. (“Capacity” & “Motivation’)


Heider: How does causal analysis work? What are the assumptions?

Capacity = ability + environment (throwing a frisbee into the wind)
Motivation = strategy + effort
4 elements ppl add up in their head
Attribution = “implicit algebra” that describes how these four factors combine to produce behavior. We “solve for the unknown.”


Heider: How does causal analysis work? What are the assumptions?

Use info we have to solve for unknown
Success = bad environment + ? (good ability)
The more we can fill in, the more we can characterize person’s behaviour


Subsequent Theorizing in the Logical/ Attributional Tradition

Correspondent isolation theory: isolating dispositional properties that distinguish 1 person from another (Law of Noncommon Effects).
people are by considering whether others would have done the same.”


Subsequent Theorizing in the Logical/ Attributional Tradition

If behaviour is unusual, then make the ‘correspondent inference .’
most behaviour is dull + bland + doesn’t say much about you
usual behaviour doesn’t provide much information as much as unusual behaviour


Harold Kelley (1967, 1972,1973)

naïve scientist” metaphor: Ordinary people use the same logical rules in their ordinary attributions that scientists use in testing hypotheses.