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Chapter 20
Social Cognition
Section 1: Attitudes
 Attitudes are beliefs and feelings about objects, people and
events that lead people to behave in certain ways.
How attitudes Develop
 Factors that play a role in attitude development include:
 Conditioning, or the ways that we are reinforced as we grow
up, plays an important role in developing attitudes.
 People often develop attitudes about what is positive or
negative by observing others, or through observational
 People form attitudes on the basis of their evaluation of
information. This process is known as cognitive evaluation.
 Attitudes formed early tend to serve as cognitive anchors
that keep people from adopting different attitudes.
Attitudes and behavior
 Behavior tends to be linked with attitudes. However, the link
between attitudes and behavior is not always strong.
 Behavior is likely to follow attitudes when the attitudes are
specific, strongly held, personally relevant and verbalized.
 Example:You believe strongly in protecting the planet, so you choose
to recycle.
 Attitudes often follow behavior to reduce cognitive
 Example:You know you need to get 8 hrs of sleep, however your work
schedule does not allow enough time, so you convince yourself that
you only need 6 hrs.
Section 2: Persuasion
 Persuasion – a direct attempt to influence other people’s
Methods of Persuasion
 Central Route: uses evidence and logical arguments to
persuade people
 Example: “Great Grains cereal is good for you because it is
high in fiber and ….”
 Peripheral Route: attempts to associate objects, people or
events with positive or negative feelings.
 Repeated exposure to a stimulus eventually results in a more
favorable attitude toward that stimulus.
 Some ways of presenting a persuasive message can be
especially effective:
1. Two - Sided Argument – present both sides of argument in
order to discredit opponents views
2. Emotional Appeals - persuade by arousing feelings such as
loyalty, desire, or fear.
Example: Montana anti-Crystal Methamphetamine billboards
 People tend to be more persuasive if they are:
1. Experts (ex. 9-10 doctors recommend..)
2. Trustworthy (ex. Oprah’s book club…)
3. Physically attractive (ex. pick one)
4. Similar to audience in ethnicity, age and other physical
 People are more easily persuaded when they are in a good
 Differences in age, sex and other characteristics of intended
audience influence how the message should be delivered to
be the most persuasive.
Saying no to persuasive Messages
 Some people are less easily persuaded than others.
 These people are said to have sales resistance.
 People with sales resistance typically have high self esteem
and low social anxiety.
 People with low self esteem and high social anxiety tend to
be more easily persuaded.
Section 3: prejudice
 Prejudice – generalized attitude toward a specific group of
 Literally means to prejudge
 People who are prejudiced judge other people on the basis of
their group membership rather than as individuals.
 - unchanging, oversimplified and usually distorted beliefs
about groups of people.
 People tend to develop stereotypes in an effort to simplify
and organize information about the people around them
 Stereotypes are harmful because they ignore the individual
nature of people
 While prejudices are beliefs, they can lead to discrimination
 Discrimination – the unfair treatment of individuals because
they are members of a particular group
Causes of prejudice
 Exaggerating Differences – assume those that are different in
some ways are more different than they really are
 Justifying Economic Status – rich may see poor as lazy, which
may make it to pay low wages
 Social Learning – acquire prejudicial attitudes of family
members, peers
Causes of prejudice
 Victimization – victims of prejudice may treat those lower
than themselves in much the same way in order to gain
feeling or power, self-worth
 Scapegoating – aggression toward individual or group blamed
for a problem
Overcoming prejudice
 Increased contact between members of different groups
 Speak up against prejudice
 Consciously avoiding allowing prejudicial attitudes to turn
into discrimination
Section 4: Social Perception
 Social Perception – refers to ways in which people perceive
one another
Primacy and Recency Effects
 Primacy Effect – tendency for people to form opinions of
others on the basis of first impressions
 How future behaviors are interpreted is often influenced by
first impressions
Primacy and Recency Effects
 Recency Effect – occurs when people change their opinions
of others on the basis of recent interactions instead of holding
on to their first impressions
Attribution Theory
 - people tend to explain the behavior of others in terms of
either dispositional, or personality, factors or in terms of
situational, or external factors
Actor – Observer Bias
 - people tend to attribute the behavior of others to
dispositional, or personality, factors, and attribute their own
behavior to situational, or external, factors.
 - We are more likely to recognize the complexity of our own
personality, and realize that our behavior is not necessarily
indicative of who we are
Fundamental Attribution Error
 - tendency to overestimate the effect of dispositional cases
for another person’s behavior, and to underestimate the effect
of the situation
Self-Serving Bias
 People are more likely to attribute their own successes to
dispositional, or personality factors
 Less likely to attribute their failures to personality factors,
more likely to attribute them to the situation
Nonverbal Communication
 Examples: facial expressions, gestures, posture
 We use interpretation of body language to pick up on
unspoken thoughts or feelings that we do not have access to
Physical Contact
 Touching is one way in which people communicate
 Interpretation of touch depends on many factors
Eye Contact
 Direct eye contact – talker is usually telling the truth
 Avoidance of eye contact – may indicate lying
 Gazing – steady, intent looks, conveys eagerness or attention
 Staring – fixed, wide eyes, tends to be interpreted as anger
Section 5: Interpersonal Attraction
Attraction – attitude of liking
Leads to friendship or love
Factors that attract us include:
Similarity to ourselves
Evidence that our attraction is returned
Physical Appearance
 People’s ideas of what is attractive differ
 Universals of Beauty: studies find we are attracted to people
who are smiling, have large eyes, high cheekbones, narrow
 Study found that infants found faces attractive that adults also
rated as attractive
 This evidence suggests we may be born with a predisposition
to find certain types of physical features attractive
Difference in Body Shape
 Great variation in preferences for body shape
 Men tend to view themselves as closer to ideal body shape
than women
 Studies found that many men prefer their partners to be
shorter, women prefer their men to be taller
Similarity and Reciprocity
 In general, we are more attracted to people who are like us
Similarity in Physical Attractiveness
Matching Hypothesis – people tend to choose as friends
and partners those who are similar to themselves in
This may be caused by fear of rejection
Similarity in other Characteristics
 We are most likely to choose friends and partners who are
similar to us in part because we are most likely to live around
these people
 In addition, people tend to be attracted to those with similar
 - mutual exchange of feelings or attitudes
 We are more likely to like people who we believe like us
Friends tend to be people:
With whom we have frequent contact
Who we find attractive
Who approve of us
Who are similar to us in important ways, such as attitudes
Used in different contexts. For example:
Parents and children
Activities one is passionate about
Sternberg’s Triangular Model of
Identifies seven types of love relationships
Intimacy: closeness and caring
Passion: feelings of romantic and sexual attraction
Commitment: want to be together for better or worse
Consummate (complete) love is made up of all three =
intimacy + passion + commitment