The final continued our experiment in shifting examinations away from a short-essay format toward a short-answer format. It worked pretty well, and this time the exam was not too long. I am declaring the experiment a success, and intend to keep this format for the forseeeable future.
Performance on the exam was excellent. On the initial scoring of the exam, the average score was 86.7, or 88% correct -- compared to the 65-70% correct that is typical with the multiple-choice exams I give in my lower-division introductory psychology course.
However, certain of the items proved unsatisfactory, and so we rescored them.
These adjustments brought the mean score up to 87.4 points, or 87% correct -- only a small increment, because only a relatively few students attempted the items in question. This score is well within my typical range of 80-90% correct for an upper-division elective course.
Final scores, reported on the course website, were rounded up to the next highest integer. This resulted in 4% of the class with perfect scores of 100 points, 50% with scores of 90 (90%) or above, and another 22% of the class with scores of 40 (80%) or above. Everybody received a score greater than 50.
In what follows I provide the scoring guide given to the GSIs. These are simply intended to be samples of adequate (6 point) answers. Other good answers were, of course, possible.
I also indicate the percentage of the class that chose each item, and the mean score for each item on the initial scoring of the exam.
Write legibly, in complete sentences, in the space provided, and please use ink.
Answer eight (8) of the 13 questions in Part A.
If you answer more than eight questions, we will grade only the first eight.
Each question is worth six (6) points, with two (2) points for free.
Your responses should be very concise.
Use only the space provided.
As a rule, no more than five or six sentences will do.
1. Analyze the following scenario with the covariation calculus for causal attribution:
Ted criticized George.
Ted is always critical of George.
Ted isn't particularly critical of other people.
Most other people didn't criticize George.
80.0% of the class answered this question, mean score = 5.3.
The covariation calculus extracts three types of information from multiple observations of behavior by and toward other people. This particular scenario entails high consistency of Ted's behavior toward George, over time; high distinctiveness of his behavior toward George, compared to his behavior toward other people; and low consensus, compared to other people's behavior toward George. Because there seems to be something unique about Ted's behavior toward George, that is not shared with or by other people, this pattern of information will give rise to an Actor-by-Target attribution.
2. Define the Fundamental Attribution Error. What evidence is there that people actually commit this error?
The fundamental attribution error is the tendency to overestimate the influence of dispositional factors, and to underestimate the influence of situational factors, on a person's behavior. Frequently cited evidence includes the Jones & Harris study of the attitude-attribution paradigm, where subjects attributed attitudes to speakers in accordance with the direction of their speeches, even when the speakers had no choice in the position they would take. Also, in the McArthur study of the covariation calculus, control subjects who received no consistency, distinctiveness, and consensus information tended to make more attributions to the actor and fewer attributions to the situation. The self-other difference in causal attribution suggests that people are more likely to make this error when making judgments concerning other people, as opposed to themselves.
3. How do judgment heuristics differ from algorithms? Define the availability heuristic and explain how it contributes to judgmental error.
Algorithms are logical rules that guarantee a correct solution is appropriately applied to a solvable problem. Heuristics are shortcut strategies, or "rules of thumb", that bypass the principles of logical inference and permit judgment under conditions of uncertainty. Heuristics inject considerable economies into the judgmental process, but they also increase the likelihood of making a judgmental error. In the availability heuristic, people make judgments based on the ease with which relevant examples come to mind. For example, in the Taylor & Fiske study, subjects assigned more responsibility for a group outcome to the confederate who was most salient in their visual fields. Availability can lead to error when people fail to take account of other facts that can influence fluency.
4. Given no other information, what is the most likely explanation for why Ted helps Paul? What is the most likely explanation for why Ted likes Paul? Explain your answers in each case.
Given no additional information, we have no idea why this happened. But in terms of "phenomenal causality", the Fundamental Attribution Error would tend to lead people to make attributions to the Actor, Ted, as opposed to the Target, Paul, or the (undescribed) situation in which the helping took place. This is the pattern observed in the control subjects in the McArthur experiment. However, to the extent that people rely on the linguistic schemata identified by Brown & Fish, they will make a causal attribution to Paul, the stimulus of Ted's mental state, rather than to Ted. That is to say, they will attribute Ted's liking to Paul's likability.
5. What does it mean to say that the self-concept is a prototype? What would it mean to assert, instead, that the self-concept has an exemplar representation?
Concepts are usually defined as summary mental representations of an entire class of objects. In this case, the self-concept would consist of a list of "characteristic" features that tend to distinguish oneself from other people. In this way, the self-as-prototype would be different from the self-as-proper-set, whose "defining" features would be singly necessary and jointly sufficient to distinguish oneself from all others. In the exemplar view, there is no abstract, summary representation of category members -- instead, the category is represented by a set of individual exemplars. So, from the exemplar point of view, we would not have a single self-concept, but rather a multiplicity of self-concepts.
A really good answer will mention at least one empirical example implying, or consistent with, the exemplar view, e.g., McGuire's distinctiveness postulate; multiple personality disorder; Higgins' self-guides; Markus's notion of the "working self".
6. Explain Higgins' concept of "self-guides". How do various self-discrepancies relate to emotion?
Higgins has proposed that the self-concept is really three self-concepts: an actual self (representing us as we are), an ideal self (representing us as we wish we were), and an ought self (representing us as significant others wish we were). He further proposes that discrepancies between these various self-concepts underlie particular emotional states: actual-ideal discrepancies produce depression, and actual-ought discrepancies produce anxiety.
7. How do studies of the self-concept in amnesic patients relate to priming studies of self-knowledge in neurologically intact subjects?
37.0%, original mean 4.3, adjusted to 5.1.
Priming studies of indicate that behavioral (episodic) knowledge of oneself is represented in memory independently of trait (semantic) knowledge of the self. Studies of self-knowledge in amnesic patients support this conclusion, because amnesic patients retain considerable trait (semantic) knowledge of themselves, and can even appreciate ways in which their personalities have changed, even though they cannot remember behavioral episodes that reflect these personality characteristics. This could not happen if semantic knowledge of the self was dependent on access to memories of specific actions and experiences.
8. In what ways does mood influence social judgment?
Mood can influence social judgment by influencing the person's memories concerning past events. Examples include mood-congruent memory (in which memory is best for information that matches the person's mood state at the time of encoding or retrieval), and mood-dependent memory (in which memory is best when mood at the time of information retrieval matches mood at the time of information encoding).
OR Mood can also influence judgmental processes directly. For example, mood-congruent judgment facilitates judgments that are congruent with the person's current mood state. Mood may prime mood-related judgments, making them easier to make (a variant on the availability heuristic, and subject to some of the same liabilities). The mood elicited by a stimulus may serve as information for judgments about that stimulus. According to Forgas' Affect Infusion Model, mood will affect the operation of judgment heuristics, but not judgment algorithms. There is also evidence that mood influences people's choice of heuristic vs. algorithmic judgment strategies, and affects people's acceptance of, or resistance to, persuasive communication.
9. What are the features that distinguish between automatic and controlled processes? Describe one way that automaticity affects social judgment.
Technically speaking, automatic processes (whether innate or acquired through extensive practice) have several properties: inevitable evocation and incorrigible execution; they are effortless, insusceptible to interference, and unconscious. Automaticity can affect social judgments through priming effects, such as the experiment on "becoming famous over night"; through "subliminal" (or, at least, preconscious) influences, such as the mere exposure effect. Because automatic processes are resource free and insusceptible to interference, they work even under stress and under conditions of scarce resources. Because they are fast, their outputs may serve as anchors on later, more deliberate judgments.
10. Define each of the elements of Baron-Cohen's theory of "mindreading". What evidence leads him to characterize autism as "mindblindness"?
The "intentionality detector" interprets behavior in terms of goals, motives, and other mental states. The "eye direction detector" detects the presence of eyes in the environment, and computes the direction in which they are looking. The "shared-attention mechanism" generates the assumption that if we look where someone else is looking, we'll see what they see. The "theory of mind" mechanism infers specific mental states -- beliefs, feelings, and desires -- from another person's behavior. Testing of autistic children with the "false belief" task indicates that they generally lack the "theory of mind" mechanism - -even when compared to children half their age, or to children with other disabilities, such as certain forms of deafness. Baron-Cohen has also suggested that some autistic children may lack the shared-attention mechanism, as well.
11. Distinguish between behavioral and perceptual expectancy confirmation effects. How do the target's attempts at self-verification play a role in the self-fulfilling prophecy?
64.4%, original 4.6, adjusted to 5.1.
Expectancy confirmation is a variant on the self-fulfilling prophecy, by which a false definition of the situation leads to behavior that makes the originally false definition come true. In perceptual terms, expectancy confirmation occurs when we interpret an ambiguous situation in line with our beliefs and expectations. In this way, we create a subjective, private reality for ourselves. In behavioral terms, expectancy confirmation occurs when our beliefs and expectations lead us to act in such a way as to change the situation itself -- not our personal mental representation of it. In this way, we create an objective, public reality -- not just for ourselves, but for other people as well. While expectancy confirmation implies that the target is the passive victim of the perceiver/actor's beliefs and expectations, it turns out that targets can engage in self-verification processes to counteract the perceiver/actor's expectancy-confirmation processes. For example, people who perceive themselves as likable will more time digesting favorable feedback from an interaction partner. And people who believe that they have been misperceived will take action to correct the perceiver's mistaken impressions.
12. Distinguish between "independent" and "interdependent" construals of the self. What evidence is there for cultural effects on the individual's self-concept?
The independent self is a view of oneself as autonomous, and relatively unique with respect to personality characteristics, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and goals. The interdependent self is a view of oneself as intimately related to other people, with personality characteristics, attitudes, thoughts, feelings and goals derived from one's web of social relationships. Markus and Kitayama, among others, have argued that members of Western cultures are more likely to possess independent self-concepts, and that members of Eastern cultures are more likely to possess interdependent self-concepts. As a result, they suggest, members of Western cultures typically have richer and more elaborate self-concepts, compared to their mental representations of other people. By contrast, members of Eastern cultures typically have self-concepts that are no more detailed than their concepts of others.
Answer two (2) of the 4 questions in Part B.
If you answer more than two questions, we will grade only the first two.
Each question is worth 25 points.
Your answers should fit in the space provided, so be fairly concise.
1. In what respects are mental representations of oneself similar to mental representations of other individuals? In what respects are they different?
Mental representations of oneself are likely to be similar in format to mental representations of other people. We have perception-based representations of what specific individuals look, and sound, and move like; and we seem to have perception-based representations of ourselves as well. We have verbal, meaning-based representations of what specific individuals are like, in terms of their traits, attitudes, and other descriptors, and in terms of their specific actions and experiences; and we seem to have meaning-based representations of ourselves as well. We have concepts about people, and we have a self-concept as well.
In structural terms, mental representations of self seem to be highly similar to mental representations of others. For example, person concepts appear to be organized by prototypes, and the self can be viewed as a prototype as well. In person memory, trait information seems to be encoded independently of behavioral information, and that seems to be true of the memory representation of the self as well. Certainly there are differences in detail. For example, our mental images of other people's faces appear to be similar to photographic head-shots, while our mental images of ourselves appear to be similar to mirror-images. And our mental representations of ourselves may include direct knowledge of our beliefs, feelings, and desires -- knowledge that must be inferred from behavior in the case of other people.
On the other hand, judgments about the self appear to be different from judgments about other people. For example, causal attributions concerning other people tend to focus on their dispositional traits (the fundamental attribution error), while causal attributions concerning ourselves tend to invoke situational factors. Similarly, we tend to judge ourselves as more responsible for good outcomes, and less responsible for bad outcomes, than we judge other people to be. However, it is not clear that these differences are specific to judgments about the self; we may well make situational, enhancing, and protective judgments about other people as well, so long as they are highly familiar, and so long as we like them as well as we like ourselves. Similarly, self-perception theorists deny that we have any special introspective knowledge about ourselves, and assert that we know ourselves in precisely the same way that we know other people -- by inferences from behavior.
(It may not be that the self is a person, like any other, but the assumption that this is true has been heuristically useful in generating some useful research. As such, the assumption is probably more useful than the opposite assumption, that the self is something mystical that cannot be subject to scientific investigation. But I digress.)
2. The study of social cognition sometimes invokes an image of the actor as conscious, deliberate, and rational. In what ways is social cognition unconscious, spontaneous, and irrational?
Certainly there are examples of deliberate, conscious, rational thought in the study of social cognition. Norman Anderson's "information integration theory" views people as making rather precise calculations -- such as weighted averages -- when making social judgments. And Harold Kelley has suggested that causal attributions are made according to a calculus that is closely modeled on how trained scientists interpret experimental data. Under conditions of uncertainty, people use judgment heuristics that provide economical, if not always precisely accurate, social judgments. The notion of the social perceiver as a "naive, intuitive" scientist runs through much research in social cognition. For example, it has been suggested that we entertain naive, implicit theories of personality that look much like those offered by trained psychologists. (Technically, a paragraph like this isn't necessary to answer the question.)
On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that people depart systematically from the prescriptions of normative rationality when making social judgments. For example, they may use judgment heuristics even when algorithms are available, and they have time to use them. Inappropriate reliance on these heuristics, such as representativeness, availability, and anchoring and adjustment, can lead to serious judgmental errors.
Social judgment is subject to a number of other errors and biases, as well, such as the "fundamental attribution error" and the "beneffectance bias". It is not clear that the self-other difference in causal attribution is actually an error: if it is a mistake to make dispositional attributions about other people, ignoring situational influences, it is not clear that it is a mistake to make situational attributions about ourselves, discounting stable traits. Anyway, we do not seem to be particularly good at testing hypotheses, or at estimating the degree to which two events or features covary.
In perceiving and responding to other people, we tend to fall back on "automatic" processes, investing too little effort in our judgments and inferences -- so much so that it sometimes seems that we do not know what we are doing, and why. As a result, we may lack some of the introspective self-knowledge we think we have.
Our emotions can contaminate our memories and our judgments, as in the case of mood-congruency. And our motivational goals can determine how much information we seek when forming impressions and making judgments, and how much we analyze the information we have. We tend to be inordinately concerned with preserving our current beliefs and attitudes, regardless of the evidence.
(If you believed all this, as many social psychologists seem to do, you'd just want to hide your head and eat worms. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our stupidity may be greatly exaggerated.)
3. What is implicit personality theory? Discuss how IPT might affect either perception, memory, or judgment concerning individuals.
"Implicit personality theory" refers to the "naive, implicit theories of personality that people work with when they form impressions of other people" (it's not necessary to set this quotation down precisely!). Briefly, IPT consists of people's intuitive beliefs about the relations among various aspects of personality, inferred from experience (direct or vicarious). As such, people's beliefs may depart substantially from the actual relations among various aspects of personality, as determined by carefully conducted empirical studies. According to Cronbach, IPT may be thought of as the "Judge's description of the Generalized Other", and reflects the individual's beliefs about the important dimensions of personality, and intuitive estimates of population means (e.g., whether the average person is extraverted or introverted), variances (e.g., the range of extraversion-introversion), and covariances (e.g., whether extraversion is related to neuroticism. While IPT may be widely shared within a culture, Cronbach suggested that there may be wide individual differences in IPT, as well as differences in IPT across cultures.
The influence of IPT on social perception and judgment can be seen in the halo effect, in Asch's work on central traits, and in the debate between "accurate reflection" and "systematic distortion" views of trait ratings. IPT can also affect social categorization, by supplying the very category scheme by which individual people are classified. Social stereotypes can be considered to be aspects of IPT, to the extent that they reflect beliefs about the traits characteristic of various subgroups of people. IPT can affect person memory by contributing to the generalized cognitive schemata (schemas) against which specific information about individuals is encoded and retrieved. IPT provides the framework in which causal attributions are made: If our intuitive theories of personality are organized around personality traits, it is not surprising that we make the fundamental attribution error! If it's true, as some theorists argue, that we have little or no introspective access to the causes of our behavior, the reasons we give for our behavior may have more to do with our beliefs about behavior in general than anything else. As Cronbach noted, there may be cultural differences in IPT that affect how individual members of those cultures make social judgments; in fact, come to think of it, culture may be defined, in some nontrivial way as the IPT that prevails among a specific population of humans.
(These are only possibilities. A good answer will provide a fairly extensive elaboration on one or two of these or similar points, or less extensive elaborations on three or more.)
4. Discuss similarities and differences between cognition in the social and nonsocial domains of knowledge. How does social cognition differ from cognitive sociology?
It may be that social and nonsocial cognition are pretty much independent domains of psychology. For example, comparing Kunda's text to the text for a standard cognitive psychology (or cognitive science) course, will find that theorizing in social cognition is relatively informal, compared to theorizing in nonsocial cognition, and that the vocabulary in the social domain (such as "implicit personality theory", "impression formation", and "causal attribution" tends not to appear in treatments of cognition in the nonsocial domain.
On the other hand, it might be possible to argue that social cognition is entirely derivative of the traditional study of cognition in nonsocial domains. Work on social categorization, for example, seems closely modeled on earlier work on categorization in nonsocial domains. Similarly, the emphasis in social cognition on judgment heuristics and automaticity seems to have followed, not preceded, work on these topics in such nonsocial domains as frequency estimates and the Stroop color-word test. And work on the representation of individual people in memory seems pretty much indistinguishable from what emerged from "verbal-learning" studies of memory for lists of words that have no particular relevance to personality or social interaction.
On the third hand, there appear to be some important differences between the social and nonsocial domains. If the principles of social cognition cannot be derived wholesale from the principles of nonsocial cognition, then the study of social cognition may make an independent contribution to the study of cognition in general. For example, events in the social domain, such as people's behavior, appear to be more ambiguous than events in the nonsocial domain, such as whether an object is in motion. And while context can effect such nonsocial percepts as the size of the moon, context exerts a great deal of influence on our perception of people and our interpretation of their behavior. Nonsocial events may be relevant to our moods and personal motives, but interpersonal events are surely more so.
While these may be only quantitative differences between social and nonsocial cognition, these quantitative differences may be so great as to amount to qualitative differences. One clear qualitative difference between social and nonsocial cognition, however, is the apparent fact that the objects of social knowledge are conscious, sentient beings like ourselves, who are trying to control (manage) the impressions we form of them. This is simply not the case with such nonsocial objects as the moon, for which we cannot make the assumption of intersubjectivity.
While social cognition emphasizes universal principles, shared in common by everyone, cognitive sociology assumes that different principles may apply in different groups or "thought communities". But then again, cultural differences are of interest in social cognition too, as Kunda's text makes clear. The bottom line, as Zerubavel notes, while social cognition tries to understand our knowledge of the social world, cognitive sociology attempts to understand the social basis of all knowledge, social and nonsocial.
(OK, OK, this one got a little long, but a good answer doesn't have to touch on all these bases. It just has to touch on some of them.)