Social thinking

Attributing Behavior to Persons or Situations

  • Attributional processes (e.g., fundamental attribution error, role of culture in attributions)
    • Your behavior is attributed to / caused by attributional processes: such as persons (yourself, other people) or situations/environment. Internal attribution = your disposition. External attribution = your situation.
    • Fundamental attribution error: we tend to attribute someone else's behavior to their personality/disposition rather than their situation. Eg: we tend to jump to the assumption that fat people are lazy and over-eat, rather than more situational attributions such as a health problem.
    • Culture: western cultures = individualist = attributes behavior to internal/dispositional factors (personality). Eastern and African cultures = collectivist = attributes behavior to external/situational factors (like society, your tribe, your team mates).
    • Actor/observer difference: we tend to make excuses for ourselves and blame others. Eg: if we or our friends make bad grades, we say the material is hard and the professor sucks. If it's someone else making bad grades, we blame it on laziness.
  • How self-perceptions shape our perceptions of others: when put ourselves in other people’s shoes and assume they feel the same way we feel. Bem’s original experiment: test subjects see a video of a man raving about doing a boring task. If Bem told the subjects the man was bribed $20 to do this, the subjects came to the conclusion that the man hated the task in reality. On the other hand, if Bem told them the man was only paid $1, the subjects assumed the man actually enjoyed the task. Note, all these are assumptions based on self-perception, as the subject never met the man in the video.
  • How perceptions of the environment shape our perceptions of others. Examples: body language changes the way you feel about someone. You are also more likely to perceive someone positively if you are in a relaxed, comfortable environment.

Prejudice and Bias

  • Processes that contribute to prejudice
    • Power, prestige, and class: rich vs poor, have vs have-nots. Eg: you come across a poor person, prejudice kicks in, and you classify that person as being a hobo. You come across a rich person, prejudice kicks in, and you classify that person as a snob.
    • The role of emotion in prejudice: emotional level prejudice = prejudice that leads to arousal of emotions. Eg: if you were robbed by someone of a certain race, you'll learn to associate those negative emotions with that race even if the next guy you meet didn't do anything.
    • The role of cognition in prejudice: cognitive level prejudce = prejudice based on rational thinking. Eg: racial profiling - if you observe that a certain race commits crimes more often, you will treat everyone of that race with prejudice.
    • Discrimination = prejudice that leads to action
  • Stereotypes: putting things/people into categories. It makes things simpler, but can lead to prejudice and discrimination.
  • Stigma = extreme dislike of a person or group based on a difference such as belief, HIV, etc.
  • Ethnocentrism: judging others based on our own culture and perspective. Eg: you may look at face paintings of tribes and find them weird, but if you step outside your ethnocentrism, you realize that the tribes probably look at you and think your lack of face painting is weird.
    • Ethnocentrism vs. cultural relativism
      • Ethnocentrism = placing yourself at the center of the universe = judging others based on the assumption that your culture is superior / most correct
      • Cultural relativism = no one's at the center, everything's relative = perceiving differences in others with an understanding that no one's more superior or inferior

Processes Related to Stereotypes

  • Self-fulfilling prophecy: if a race is stereotyped a certain way, people will have those expectations from you and create conditions to fit those stereotypes. Eg: if the stereotype is your race being good at basketball, people will expect you to be good at it without even knowing you, TV ads will show your race playing basketball / wearing Air Jordans. In the end, this makes it easy for you to become that stereotype, thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Stereotype threat: if you have a negative stereotype against you, you'll be overly-defensive about it. This causes anxiety that may impede performance.