The noncumulative portion of this examination
consists of four (4) pairs of questions.
Answer one (1) question from each pair, writing only 1-3 paragraphs for each question.
Write legibly, in complete sentences, in the space provided, and please use ink.
1a. The self can be described as one's mental representation of oneself. Go beyond this broad statement to discuss one (1) form that mental representation might take, and why.
Self-knowledge can be represented as images, concepts, or memories (they can also be represented as stories, though not much is known about this form of representation, at least as it applies to the self). An answer can take any of these tacks.
Images are perception-based knowledge representations, which preserve information about perceptual structure, as opposed to meaning. The Mita et al experiment on mirror-reversed photos suggests that we have a fairly detailed mental picture of what we look like. Studies of individuals with eating disorder suggest that, at least for some people, our body images can diverge radically from objective reality.
Concepts are meaning-based knowledge representations, which preserve information about meanings, but lose information about perceptual structure. The "self-concept" can take a number of forms: as a proper set, a prototype, a set of exemplars, or as a theory. The proper-set view emphasizes the uniqueness of the self, but is an inadequate view of concepts generally. The prototype and exemplar views are the most well developed, but seem to require that we possess multiple self-concepts (constituting the exemplars, or summarized in the prototype). The theory view goes beyond the notion of concepts as lists of features (or as lists of examples), to represent and explain the relations among features or examples.
Memories are also meaning-based knowledge
representations, and a distinction can be drawn between semantic (trait)
and episodic (autobiographical) knowledge about oneself. Both kinds of
knowledge can be represented as propositions within an associative network
model. One question concerns the structural relations between semantic
and episodic self-knowledge. One possible structure is hierarchical, with
nodes representing traits fanning off a node representing the self, and
nodes representing specific trait-relevant events fanning of their respective
trait-nodes. However, studies of priming, and of brain-damaged patients,
indicate that semantic and episodic self-knowledge are represented independently
of each other (because processing one does not facilitate processing the
1.b "The self is a person, like any other". How do mental representations of the self differ from mental representations of other people? What factors might be responsible for this difference?
The literature is full of "self-other" differences. The self-other difference in causal attribution; egocentricity; beneffectance; self-other differences in achievement attributions; the reversal of at least some of these differences in depressives. The question is whether these differences are intrinsic to the difference between self and other, or whether there is some confound. So, for example, according to the motivational hypothesis, the self-other differences protects self-esteem; the question then is whether we show the self-other difference for positive as well as negative outcomes. Or, according to the informational hypothesis, the self-other difference merely reflects differences in the availability of consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness information; the question then is whether we make self-like causal attributions for others whom we know really well. Or, according to the perceptual hypothesis, the self-other difference reflects differences in visual perspective; the question then is whether we make other-like causal attributions for actions that we view ourselves performing on video (note: thesis topic here).
There is also an interesting literature, summarized by Kunda, on the use of the self as a reference point in judgments of others, and the complementary use of others as a reference point for judging the self.
There is also Tesser's "self-evaluation
maintenance model", which seeks to explain how we compare ourselves to
2a. Discuss neuropsychological evidence (e.g., studies of brain-damaged patients) that bears on the question of how episodic and semantic information about the self is represented in memory.
This question could be addressed with respect
to either self or others (given the assumption that, in many respects at
least, the self is a person like any other). Basically, there are two lines
of evidence. First, amnesic patients who have no episodic memory nevertheless
can make accurate judgments about their own personality traits (an aspect
of semantic memory). Second, amnesic patients who have no episodic memory
can learn about the general characteristics (traits) of other people --
so there is not reason to think they could not do the same about themselves.
2b. Describe Forgas' "Affect Infusion Model" (AIM). Cite some evidence supporting it. Under what circumstances, according to AIM, will emotion affect social judgment?
Mood has many effects on social judgment,
most of which parallel the effects of mood on memory. In particular, there
is a mood-congruence effect: people who are happy tend to make positive
judgments, people who are sad tend to make negative ones. Interestingly,
despite the parallel between mood-congruent memory and mood-congruent judgment,
Forgas argues that mood won't affect (pardon the pun) judgments that are
based on memory retrieval. Go figure. Moreover, he argues that mood won't
affect judgments guided by directional goals, because in this case the
motives will override the emotions. But mood will affect judgments that
are based on short-cut heuristic judgments; in this case, according to
the theory, mood provides easily accessible information. If you're happy,
positive features will come to mind. Mood will also affect judgments that
are based on "substantive" processes involving elaborate analyses and systematic
reasoning; in this case, the person's mood acts as a prime to facilitate
mood-congruent judgments. If you're happy, you'll think make positive evaluations.
3a. Some theorists argue that the acquisition of a "theory of mind" (TOM) is the endpoint of cognitive development. What does this mean? What are the elements of a ToM? Compare mental retardation and autism in terms of the development of ToM.
By "theory of mind", we mean the belief that other people have minds like our own, although their contents can differ, and that we can make inferences about other people's mental states from their behaviors.
One view of theory of mind makes a distinction among (1) the understanding that we ourselves have minds that we can control; (2) metacognitive knowledge of he contents of our own minds, and of the principles by which our minds operate; and (3) knowledge of other minds -- that others have mental states, too, which we can infer from their behavior.
Another view, associated with Baron-Cohen,
breaks the theory of mind down into four components: (1) an intentionality
detector, by which we infer volitional mental states (goals and purposes)
from behavior; (2) an eye-direction detector, by which we infer perceptual
mental states from behavior; (3) a shared-attention mechanism which relates
self, other, and object; and (4) theory-of-mind mechanism for inferring
epistemic states such as thinking, knowing, believing, guessing, imaging,
dreaming, and deceiving. The general idea is that autistic children lack
the theory-of-mind mechanism, and may lack the shared-attention mechanism
as well, resulting in specific deficits in social cognition and social
relations. Mentally retarded individuals, however, are generally impaired
intellectually, but have no particular deficits in social cognition.
3b. Traditionally, psychology has involved a search for "universal" principles of mental structure and function. Describe some evidence that suggests that there are cultural differences "between East and West" in social cognition.
By "universal" we mean the idea that there
are principles of mental life that apply to all normal humans, in the same
way that physical laws like gravity apply to all physical objects and biological
laws like photosynthesis that apply to all (OK, most) plants, or evolution
by natural selection that apply to all living things. Most psychological
laws -- like the principles underlying size constancy, or relating attention
to memory, or the rules of grammar -- apply to everyone everywhere.
But beyond these universals, cultural psychologists seem to have discovered some differences in how mind operates, across cultures. Kunda summarizes a number of these: independent vs. interdependent construals of self, asymmetries in the perceived similarity between self and other, gloabal versus contxtualized self-descriptions, the fundamental attribution error (which doesn't seem so fundamental, viewed cross-culturally), strategies for dissonance reduction, and self-enhancement vs. self-criticism. Each and every one of these need not be described, but a sample of them should be, along with clear definitions and examples.
4a. Describe Searle's distinction between observer-independent and observer-relative knowledge. How does this distinction relate to the distinction between intrinsic and derived intentionality? When one person constructs a mental representation of another person (e.g., George believes that Martha is extraverted), is the intentionality involved in this belief intrinsic or derived? How about when one group constructs a collective mental representation of another group (e.g., when George and Martha both believe that masculinity involves aggressiveness, and femininity involves emotionality).
This is intended to be a basic, lowest-common denominator "Searle" question, easily answerable by those who read the book: a good answer doesn't have to be particularly detailed. By working through the "Martha" question, I just want to give the student the opportunity to grapple with some of Searle's ideas. The particular answer you give to this question doesn't matter so much as the way in which you reason about it.
Basically, the distinction is between that knowledge whose truth-value (i.e., whether it is true or false) is independent of whose belief it is, and that knowledge whose truth-value depends on whose belief it is. The so-called natural sciences ostensibly deal with observer-independent knowledge: it's true that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and false that the Earth is the center of the Universe, regardless of what anyone believes. This is the kind of knowledge referred to by the physicist Steven Weinberg, when he says that "The laws of nature are inexorable", and would be discovered by anyone anywhere.
By contrast, observer-relative (or observer-dependent) knowledge is knowledge that is only true from a particular observer's (or society's, or culture's) perspective. I remember a particular event from my childhood, but not everyone else remembers it (and nobody remembers it quite like I do). The question in social science is to what extent its facts are observer-independent, and to what extent its facts are observer-relative.
Remember that in philosophy, intentionality has to do with reference, not with what we intend (philosophy can be difficult that way). As a general rule, intrinsic intentionality is observer-independent: the referent has to do with the features of the object or event, in and of itself. But derived intentionality is observer-relative, because the truth of the statement is based on some other fact or principle.
A statement such as "I am hungry" is observer-independent
because it's true (or false) that I am hungry regardless of what anyone
else believes. Similarly, my belief that Martha is extraverted is observer-independent:
it's true that I believe that, regardless of what anyone else thinks. However,
it may not be true that Martha is extraverted: my observer-relative
belief may not match observer-independent reality. This can be checked
by measuring Martha's degree of extraversion, as by a personality scale.
But this strategy only works if extraversion is an observer-independent
feature of Martha (and other people), one subject to objective measurement.
But measuring personality traits is not necessarily like measuring
physical traits such as height, weight, and hair color. This is because
the social labels that we apply to people, such as neurotic or extraverted
(or masculine or feminine, for that matter), may not be observer-independent
features of people like Martha. They may be social constructions -- that
is, labels or categories that are shared within a society or culture, but
which have no meaning outside that group of people. So, whether and to
what degree Martha is extraverted, and thus the truth-value of my (or society's)
evaluation of her as extraverted, depends on the nature of these basic
features of personality: are they observer-independent or not? Answering
this question is critical for determining what kind of science psychology
4b. What are the characteristics of automatic, as opposed to controlled, processes? Under what circumstances are people most likely to engage in automatic as opposed to controlled social cognition?
Automatic processes (1) occur outside conscious
awareness, (2) are executed without conscious intention, (3) cannot be
stopped once their execution begins, and (4) consume few or no cognitive
(attentional) resources. Controlled processes are the oppose of this. Whereas
traditional views of describe social cognition as deliberate, thoughtful,
and controlled, a popular revisionist view is that there is much about
social cognition that is automatic and mindless, almost reflex-like. For
example, Nisbett and Wilson point out failures of introspection (we don't
know why we do what we do); Zajonc argues that mere exposure increases
likeing, regardless of what one things; Bargh and his colleagues emphasize
the role of unconscious priming in social judgments. In theory (and in
much data, too), automatic processes prevail when people have little time,
energy, or motivation to act thoughtfully (according to some theorists,
this is most of the time, because at heart we are "cognitive misers").
So, when we are in mundane social situations; when we have to make snap
judgments; and when we are simultaneously engaged in cognitively demanding
activities, social judgments will occur more or less automatically, and
get translated more or less automatically into social behavior.
The cumulative portion of this examination
consists of three (3) sets of questions.
Answer one (1) question from each set, writing only 1-3 paragraphs for each question.
Write legibly, in complete sentences, in the space provided, and please use ink.
5a. Knowledge of both individuals and groups can be represented conceptually. Distinguish between the classical, prototype, and exemplar views of conceptual structure, and give an example of how each view would apply to the organization of knowledge about individual persons or groups of people.
Concepts are mental representations of
categories, and categories consist of objects (instances, exemlars) that
are similar to each other in some respect. From the classical view, all
objects in a category share certain defining (singly necessary and jointly
sufficient) features in common. The set of defining features summaries
the contents of the category. The prototype view retains the notion of
a summary, but abandons the notion of defining features: instances of the
category share a famil resemblance, and the summary prototype is an instance,
real or imagined, which possess many category-consistent features, and
few features that are category-inconsistent. The exemplar view abandons
the notion of concept as summary: rather than a list of defining or characteristic
features, the exemplar view holds that concepts are represented by a list
of instances of the category. Any social concept can be construed under
each view. One appropriate example would be the self-concept. Another appropriate
example would be social stereotypes, which can be thought of as concepts
about members of social groups.
5b. Much social cognition involves attributing traits to other people. How do we go about making these attributions? In answering this question, be sure to discuss the role of both judgment algorithms and judgment heuristics (and be sure to define these terms).
There are lots of ways to answer this question.
One tack would be to describe correspondent inference theory. Another would
be to describe Kelley's "covariation" calculus for causal attribution,
based on consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness information. Yet another
would be to describe Weiner's variant on the covariation calculus, according
to which people make attributions concerning success and failure based
on consensus and consistency information. Another would be to abandon such
algorithmic approaches in favor of judgment heuristics and biases, such
as the fundamental attribution error (itself a variant on correspondent
inferences) or any of the self-other differences. Another would be to discuss
Gilbert's distinction between automatic and controlled processes in attribution,
whereby we automatically make dispositional attributions (invoking the
fundamental attribution error), but then delibertely correcting them in
order to make more appropriate situational attributions.
6a. Distinguish between self-schema (Markus), self-complexity (Linville), and self-guides (Higgins).
According to one traditional view, the
self is just a self-description, containing those features or attributes
that are true of the self. But Markus argued that the self is more organized
than that, focusing on those features that are particularly important
to the self. Thus, a person might be objectively described as extraverted,
but extraversion would not become part of the self-schema unless extraversion
was important to the way he or she viewed him- or herself. The self-schema,
then, has a kind of observer-dependent flavor: it is not the person as
he or she might be objectively described. Linville argued that some selves
are monolithic, organized around a very few salient attributes, while other
selves are complex, including many different features or aspects. People
with high levels of self-complexity are, in theory, more flexible in their
thought and action, because they have available a wider variety of ways
to interpret self-relevant events. Higgins argued that there were three
important aspects of the self: the actual self (one's representation of
what one really is like), the ideal self (one's representation of the person
he or she would like to be), and the ought self (one's representation of
the person significant others would like him or her to be. In theory, at
least, discrepancies between real and ideal selves are associated with
depression, while discrepancies between real and ought selves are associated
6b. What is the role of motivation in social cognition? Distinguish between cognitive and motivational accounts of bias in social cognition. What are the roles of accuracy goals and closure goals?
Social cognition is about perception, memory,
thought, and language, and the question is whether these cognitive processes
stand alone, or alternatively are influenced by other, non-cognitive processes
such as motivation and emotion. Kunda thinks they are, and she summarized
this material under the label of "hot" (as opposed to cold, heartless)
cognition. So, for example, the biases that infect social cognition could
be purely cognitive in nature (e.g., due to some sort of automatic processing),
or they could reflect affective or motivational influences (like the maintenance
of self-esteem or positive affect). For another example, self-other difference
in causal attribution could be given a purely cognitive explanation, in
terms of differences in available information or differences in visual
perspective; or they could be given a motivational explanation, in terms
of self-esteem. When judgments of actions are affected by their outcomes
(positive or negative), then something other than "purely" cognitive factors
may be in play. Motivation is about goals, just as emotion is about feelings,
and Kunda summarizes the literature about two broad kinds of goals: accuracy
and closure. Many goals are directional in nature: to achieve one thing,
or to avoid something else. Maintenance of self-esteem is an important
directional goal in social cognition. But there are other relavant goals,
such as accuracy and closure. In accuracy, the goal is arriving at the
best conclusion, regardless of whether it is good or bad. Accuracy goals
increase the complexity, and decrease the automaticity, of thought. In
closure, the goal is to arrive at a firm, clear, conclusion, regardless
of whether it is correct (accurate), and regardless of whether it is positive
or negative, good or bad. Closure goals may invoke heuristic reasoning
-- getting to a conclusion quickly and with the least expenditure of effort.
7a. The study of social cognition sometimes invokes an image of the actor as conscious, deliberate, and rational. But according to some social psychologists, not too much thought goes into social behavior. Explain what such a critique might mean.
7b. How does social cognition differ from nonsocial cognition? Or, put another way, how might the study of social cognition tell us something about cognition in general, that studies of nonsocial cognition might miss?
From one point of view, social cognition is the application of the principles of cognitive psychology to the social domain -- the world of persons, situations, and interpersonal behavior. But if social cognition is entirely derivative, why study it at all - or, at least, why devote special courses to it. In one sense, social cognition is quantitatively different from nonsocial cognition, because the objects and events in the social world are more ambiguous, and more context-bound, than are those in the nonsocial world. Interpreting a particular behavior as aggressive depends on the context in which it is observed.
Moreover, while cognition underlies all behavior, emotional and motivational influences on both cognition and behavior may be more salient in the social than the nonsocial case. Therefore, social cognition brings these features of all cognition to the forefront, in a way that nonsocial cognition does not. Interpreting a particular behavior as aggressive depends on how I am feeling, and what I want.
But social cognition is also qualitatively different, because the social world is the only world in which the objects of cognition are themselves conscious, sentient beings, with thoughts, goals, and feelings like those of the perceiver. Therefore, the social perceiver has to take into account the internal mental states of the object of perception, in a way that is not required, or even relevant, in the nonsocial case. Interpreting a particular behavior as aggressive depends on my beliefs about the thoughts, feelings, and desires of the other person.
Social cognition is also qualitatively different, at least in theory, because the categories of social thought are themselves products of belief -- that is, of individual or social cognitive construction. When we say that birds are warm-blooded vertebrates with wings and feathers, these attributes are observer-independent features of the world. But when we say that girls and women are feminine while boys and men are masculine, these attributes are at least in part observer-relative -- masculinity and femininity may only exist in the minds of people who construe them that way.
For this reason, it may not be possible
to have a psychological theory of social cognition without input from other
social sciences like sociology and anthropology, which tell us how social
organizations and cultures operate. Such knowledge may be entirely irrelevant
to cognition of objects, such as planets and fish, which exist in the physical
world, regardless of whether anyone ever perceives them.
7c. Distinguish between realism and idealism in philosophy. How does social cognition address this debate?
Realism, in the philosophy of mind, is the viewpoint that the objects of perception exist independent of the observer -- or, that the features of objects are in some sense observer-independent. Idealism, in its extreme (and widely caricatured) form, is the viewpoint that the world has no existence independent of the mind. But more formally, it is the view that, because some features of objects occur in some contexts but not others, those features are not intrinsic to the objects themselves, but are in some sense constructions of the perceiver's mind.
In social cognition, this issue comes up when we try to figure out what kinds of features characterize the social world. Do features such as aggression and extraversion exist in the world outside the mind, or are they features that are applied by the mind itself? If you believe the former, then it makes sense to ask questions about the accuracy of social perception, and whether our percepts are accurate reflections of the world we encounter. If you believe the former, then it makes sense to entertain the hypothesis that our perceptions are systematic distortions of the world outside the mind.
If we believe that our mental representations
of the world are in some sense, and to some degree, cognitive constructions,
which is the essence of the idealist position, then it makes sense to ask
what kind of constructions these might be. On the one hand, the constructions
could be purely observer-dependent --, mental representations of the world
which, accurate or not, guide our behavior. Or, by virtue of the self-fulfilling
prophecy, we could by virtue of our behavior act on the real world to bring
it in conformity with our mental representation of it -- an observer-independent
feature of the world. Or, my virtue of social constructivism and collective
intentionality, we could create some objective feature of the world solely
through the operation of shared belief. The last two operations illustrate
the ambiguity of the distinction between realism and idealism, because
in both cases our beliefs do not merely reflect the way the world is: they
actually cause it to be the way it is.
7d. Some people argue that psychology is, or should be, a natural science like biology, while others argue that psychology is, or should be, a social science like sociology. What does the study of social cognition have to offer this debate?
As a rule, natural sciences such as physics and biology deal with an observer-dependent world. They study the way the world is, regardless of whether we live in it. And social sciences such as sociology and anthropology deal with an observer-relative world -- a world that would not exist in the absence of human creations such as institutions and cultures. Psychology is caught between these worlds: to the extent that it tries to discover universally applicable laws of perception, memory, etc., it is behaving like a natural science, and it naturally looks "downward" (in a reductionist sense) to the brain. But to the extent that it tries to discover how people relate to each other, it has to take account of social and cultural processes that are historically contingent and in some sense social constructions -- and so it also has to look "upward" to the macro-level of group, institution, and culture. Cultural differences in social cognition are good examples of these. But in a broader sense, it is possible that the very categories of social thought -- masculinity, femininity, extraversion, neuroticism -- are themselves social constructions, varying from time to time and place to place. If so, then psychology cannot ever be a purely "natural" science like physics or biology, but must always be a social science as well.