Home Introduction Cognitive Psychology Cognitive Perspective Social Perception Social Memory Social Categorization Social Judgment Language Automaticity Self Social Neuropsychology Personality Social Intelligence Development Sociology of Knowledge Social Construction Conclusion Lecture Illustrations Exam Information


University of California, Berkeley

Department of Psychology


Psychology 164

Spring 2006


Midterm Examination



Answer a total of ten (10) questions, including at least one from each of the following sections.


Do not answer more than 10 questions.

If you answer more than 10 questions, we will count only the first 10.


Your responses should be very concise. As a rule, less than 5 sentences will do.

Write your answers in the space provided.

If absolutely necessary, you may continue on the other side of the page.


Write legibly, in complete sentences, in the space provided, and please use ink.

Exams written in pencil will not be eligible for regrading.


Exam Feedback

The exam was a little shorter than the midterm from Spring 2004, and I think it's size is now just about right.  On the initial scoring of the exam, the average score was 44.1, 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. I was prepared to rescore some items, in case any proved to be inappropriately difficult or misleading, but no such problems appeared, so there was no rescoring.

I did notice a general tendency to avoid questions from Zerubavel - -although those who attempted those questions generally did well by them (or was done well by them, if you will).

The mean score of 44.1, or 88% correct -- which is well within my typical range of 80-90% correct for an upper-division elective course.

In what follows I provide the scoring guide given to the GSI.  These are simply intended to be samples of adequate (5 point) answers.  Other good answers were, of course, possible.  The GSi was instructed to begin with a "default" of 3 points, and then to add or subtract points as appropriate.

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.



Section 1.  The Cognitive Perspective on Social Interaction


1. What is the Doctrine of Interactionism? How do people construct their environments?

The Doctrine of Interaction states that individuals construct the environments which in turn influence their experience, thought, and action. There are four modes by which this construction can occur: Evocation, where the appearance and behavior of the person unintentionally evokes a response from the environment; Selection, where a person chooses to place him/herself in one environment rather than another; Manipulation, where a person changes the objective environment through overt behavioral activities; and Transformation, where the person acts cognitively to alter the subjective, mental representation of the environment. basis of all knowledge.

62% of the class attempted this item; mean score = 4.18.


2. What is an "epistemic need", in the context of social cognition?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge. An epistemic need is the motive to acquire knowledge, explain events, and generally create meaning. In the context of social cognition, it is the drive to identify, label, understand, and make predictions about other people.

52%, 4.27.


3. How does the perspective of cognitive sociology differ from that of cognitive psychology?

Cognitive psychology takes either a universalistic or an individualistic perspective on cognition. That is, it is concerned either with uncovering principles of cognitive processing that are common to everyone, or with the personal idiosyncracies of individual percepts, memories, and thoughts. By contrast, cognitive sociology is concerned with individuals as members of thought communities, and with the role of cognitive socialization in shaping the individual's thought processes. Cognitive sociology begins with the assumption that different historical epochs, different cultures, and different subcultures are characterized by distinct differences in both the content and the mode of thought.

54%, 4.38.



Section 2.  Social Perception


4. What is a central trait and what makes it central?

Asch defined a central trait has a psychosocial characteristic that, when changed, alters the entire impression of a person. Central traits appear to be more highly correlated with other traits compared to peripheral traits; thus, central traits carry more information about the person than peripheral traits do. In particular, central traits appear to be closely aligned with the two major dimensions of person perception: social good-bad (like warm-cold) and intellectual good-bad (like intelligent-unintelligent).

81%, 4.33.


5. What is implicit personality theory?

Implicit personality theory is the individual's "naive" theory of personality, which forms the background for impression formation. It is a person's description of the "Generalized Other", as opposed his or her mental representations of particular other people. IPT consists of assumptions about the important dimensions of personality, the relations among them, and population tendencies along these dimensions, such as central tendency and variation. IPT may be inferred from actual experience with people, or it may be acquired in the course of cognitive socialization (or both). Accordingly, there may be wide individual and sociocultural differences in implicit personality theories.

59%, 4.22.


6. Individuals described with two highly positive traits are more likable than those described with two highly positive traits and two moderately positive traits. Why?

According to Cognitive Algebra, impressions are formed by averaging the values of individual traits, along an estimate of perceiver's initial bias. The relatively low values accorded the moderately positive traits are effectively lower the average value of the entire impression.

60%, 4.79.


7. What makes a face attractive? Why?

Somewhat paradoxically, faces that are close to the average of all faces are perceived as more attractive than faces that depart from the average. This is not because average faces are symmetrical: averageness and symmetry make independent contributions to facial attractiveness; and the effect of averageness is greater than that of symmetry. It may be that average faces better represent our prototype of the category of "attractive face". Or, it may be that average faces, being by definition more frequently encountered in the population, benefit from the "mere exposure effect" on preference judgments.

75%, 4.70.



8. Define naive realism. How does naive realism relate to false consensus?

Naive realism is the view that we perceive the world the way it actually is, without mediation by cognitive and other processes that might bias and distort our perceptions. In other words, that there is an isomorphism, or one-to-one correspondence, between objective reality and our subjective awareness of that reality. One consequence of naive realism is the false consensus effect: that everyone else perceives, remembers, and thinks about the world the way we do. If everybody sees the world the way it is, then everyone will see the same things in the world.

57%, 4.75.



9. What is the evidence for the universality of facial expressions of emotion?

Darwin himself noted that human facial expressions of certain emotions, such as anger and fear, bore a striking resemblance to those of nonhuman animals, especially primates and mammals. If these facial expressions are part of our human evolutionary heritage, then they are likely to be universal. In fact, research by Ekman and his colleagues, involving about two dozen different cultures, show that people are remarkably accurate in labeling the emotional expressions of members of different cultures in terms of such "basic emotions" as joy, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. This is so even when the culture has had little or no exposure to Western media, as in the case of a "Stone age" tribe in New Guinea.

59%, 4.78.



10. What characteristics distinguish an automatic process from a controlled one?

Automatic processes occur in the absence of conscious intent; once begun, they cannot be consciously controlled; they consume little or no cognitive resources; and they are unconscious, in the sense that the person lacks awareness that they are operating. Depending on the precise arrangement of these qualities, there can be different degrees, and different kinds, of automaticity.

40%, 4.44.



11. Define "optical pluralism" and "optical community". How are "social optics" related to attention.

Optical pluralism refers to the fact that there are different "mental lenses" through which we can "see" an event, resulting in a number of different possible perceptions, or interpretations, of an event. "Optical communities" are groups of people who have some to "see" events through the same set of "mental lenses". Through a process of "optical socialization", members of an optical community develop a common "mental horizon" by which they focus on some aspects of events, and ignore others.

32%, 4.8.



Section 3.  Social Memory

12. What is a mental schema? What are the effects of mental schemata (otherwise known as schemas) on person memory?

A schema is a relatively abstract knowledge structure which guides the acquisition and retrieval of new knowledge about schema-relevant objects and events. As a result of schematic processing, memory favors schema-relevant knowledge over schema-irrelevant knowledge. In particular, the schema appears to provide categorical cues that facilitate access to schema-congruent information at the time of retrieval. But in addition, schema-incongruent information violates our expectations: subsequent attempts to explain the unexpected event leads to elaborate processing at the time of encoding, which also favors memory.

46%, 4.03.



13. How is person memory organized?

Person memory is, first and foremost, organized by persons. Evidence from both reaction-time studies of individuation and reference, and "clustering" studies of person memory, is consistent with an associative-network model in which persons are represented as nodes, associatively linked to other nodes representing their characteristics and behaviors. Studies of priming effects indicate that schema-incongruent behaviors are associatively linked both with other schema-incongruent behaviors, and with schema-congruent behaviors, providing a structural basis for the memory advantage enjoyed by the former. Beyond this, some theorists have favored a scheme in which nodes traits are associatively linked to nodes representing the behaviors that exemplify them. Evidence on this point, however, is mixed, with clustering studies providing weak evidence favoring such an organization, but priming studies generally negative.

60%, 4.39.



14. Compare distributed and localist theories of the neural representation of person memory.

Distributed theories of memory hold that individual items of knowledge are represented by patterns of neural activity distributed widely across the cortex. Distributed theories are supported by evidence that the specific location of brain damage is not critical to determining the loss of learned responses. Localist theories hold that items of knowledge are represented by the activity of single neurons, or perhaps small clusters of neurons, centered on a specific location in the brain. Localist theories predict the existence of "grandmother cells", which invariably fire in the presence of a particular stimulus.

19%, 4.5.



15. What are the effects of processing goals on person memory? Why might this be so?

Memory is better when subjects process information with the goal of forming an impression of a person, compared to the goal of simply memorizing the information for later recall. One theory of this effect is that an "impression set" evokes deeper, more elaborate, processing -- which is known to improve memory. Another theory is that the impression set focuses the subject on the target's traits, when then serve to organize memory for specific behaviors.

22%, 4.5.



16. What does it mean to say that memory has a "normative dimension"?

Memory is not just a matter of an individual remembering and forgetting past events. In sociological terms, each individual is part of a "remembrance community", consisting of people with shared memories. Such a community enforces "rules of remembrance" that indicate which events members should remember, and which they should forget.

8%, 3.8.  



Section 4.  Social Categorization

17. What are the consequences of dividing the world into "Us" versus "Them"?

One consequence is ingroup favoritism: In the "minimal group paradigm", in which subjects are divided arbitrarily into groups, subjects will favor other members of their own group in the distribution of rewards. Ingroup members will also boost the status of their own group, compared to outgroups. And they will perceive outgroup members as more similar to each other, compared to ingroup members -- what is known as the outgroup homogeneity effect.

59%, 4.22.



18. What evidence favors the idea that person categories are structured as fuzzy sets?

In the first place, it appears that all other natural categories are structured as fuzzy sets, and even those categories that have explicit proper-set structure, like geometric figures, seem to be treated as if they were proper sets. For example, categorization does not always make use of defining features, which are singly necessary and jointly sufficient for category membership. Further, some category members seem to be better -- more "typical" representatives of their category than others. So, why should person categories be an exception? In fact, research on person categories like personality types and psychiatric diagnoses suggests that they don't have any defining features either, and that examples of the categories vary in "prototypicality".

32%, 4.35.



19. What are the effects of expertise on categorization?

Novices tend to categorize objects, including other people, by matching their features to those of a abstract category prototype -- a summary representation that contains many features that are highly correlated with category membership, and few features that are correlated with membership in contrasting categories. However, experts tend to categorize objects and people by matching them to concrete category instances - -specific exemplars known to be members of a category.

49%, 4.32.



20. What are cognitive misers? How do we know that they exist? What are the effects of cognitive miserliness on impression formation?

Cognitive misers are exert minimal amounts of mental effort when performing cognitive tasks such as impression formation. Evidence of cognitive miserliness comes from studies indicating a reliance on judgment heuristics, or rules of thumb, such as representativeness, simulation, and availability. In addition, impression-formation seems to be biased toward processing information that is consistent with our expectations. Relatedly, we tend to maintain our first impressions of people, even in the face of corrective evidence that arrives later. As a result, our impressions of other people are often inaccurate.

14%, 4.56.



21. What are social stereotypes and how are they activated?

Social stereotypes are social categories, shared by members of a social ingroup, and applied to members of social outgroups. Stereotypes consist of features that are presumed to be characteristic of members of social outgroups. These are not defining features, believed to be possessed by all and every outgroup member, or even by most outgroup members. Rather, they are characteristic features, which are believed to occur more frequently in outgroup members than in other groups. They appear to be automatically activated by the presence of certain outgroup characteristics, such as physical features centrally associated with gender, race, or ethnicity.

40%, 4.08.



22. What evidence suggests that categorization is socially constructed?

First and foremost, it appears that different cultures and social groups "carve up" reality into different pieces. That is, some cultures acknowledge categories that other cultures do not. Even when some categories appear to be universal, the boundaries between categories are drawn somewhat differently from one culture to the next. Moreover, it appears that cultures may differ in terms of the very structure of their categories, with some gravitating toward "either/or" schemes

19%, 3.83.



Remember to answer only any 10 questions.

If you answer more than 10 questions, we will grade only the first 10.


A scoring guide will be posted to the course website by noon, March 8.


Exams will be graded and returned as soon as possible.


Requests for regrading must be made

no later than 1 week after exams are returned.


This page last revised 05/12/10 05:58:33 AM.