discussion 4

Answer each question in 150 words using only the sources provided

1. In this week’s content we learned that some people process information peripherally whereas others process information centrally (Elaboration Likelihood Model).  One factor that can determines which route people use is one’s Need for Cognition (how much someone enjoys thinking).  If I told you ‘People who are low on Need for Cognition should not be allowed to serve on juries because they won’t process the case facts in a thorough, meaningful way.’  How would you respond to that?  Do you agree or disagree?  Support your position. 

2. Does Heuristics have a big impact on social issues? Can it be rectified? How so?

Chapter 5

Social Cognition Part 1

Today’s outline

Social cognition in general

Elaboration likelihood model

A model that explains two possible routes for processing information and making decisions

Controlled vs automatic processing

Knowledge structures

Schemas, scripts, priming, framing

Cognitive coherence

A model that explains how people make decisions in the real world

Development of social cognition

Behaviorism had been focused on observable actions and not internal states

But social psychologists contended that we can still measure/access thoughts, both directly and indirectly, using clever methodology

E.g. Measuring behavior after a discussion with someone of another race, in order to assess racist attitudes

Social cognition

Social Cognition: the study of any kind of thinking by people about people or social relationships

It’s a good thing social psychologists decided to look into social cognition because it turns out we think more about people than any other subject (Fiske & Taylor, 1991)

Social psychology

Do you like to think?

Humans have the largest prefrontal cortex of any animal, but…

Do humans like to think???

Turns out, no!

Conscious, rational thought requires a lot of energy and effort

Social cognition

Social psychologists developed the term ‘cognitive miser’ to describe human thought

Just as a miser doesn’t like to spend money and does so rarely, so do cognitive misers avoid thinking

*Notable exceptions:

When it comes to people’s favorite things (hobbies, sports, interests, etc.) people can and do readily think and devour knowledge

Some people do like to think in general, how do we know?

Need for cognition

Caccioppo & Petty (1982) developed a scale called Need for Cognition (NFC)

It measures the “tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy effortful thinking”

Going back to persuasion from last lecture, someone’s NFC level is an audience (to whom) characteristic

Those high in NFC are more easily persuaded by strong arguments, but do not find weak arguments compelling

Example of strong argument: college students should have to take comprehensive exams at the end of senior year because that boosts starting salaries

Example of a weak argument: college students should have to take comprehensive exams because graduate students complained that because they have to, undergrads should too

Brief Note:

Before we continue, we are going to use a lot of terms in this chapter to mostly express the same things concerning the two different modes of thinking and the duplex mind:

Conscious vs. non-conscious

Central vs. peripheral

Systematic vs. heuristic

Controlled vs. automated

At different points we will use different terms, only because those were the terms the researchers used for their specific studies

But it’s important to recognize the themes and similarities

Elaboration Likelihood Model

Petty and Caccioppo (1986) later proposed a general model of how people process information to make decisions

Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM):

There are two routes to processing information or something a speaker says

Central route: conscious, systematic, slow, deliberative processing that evaluates the content of a message

Peripheral route: involves automatic, heuristic, non-conscious decision-making that is influenced by simple cues, e.g. the speaker is attractive

Elaboration Likelihood Model continued

So which route of processing (central or peripheral) will someone use?

Well, it depends!

How high is their ‘need for cognition’?

If high, they will most likely use the central route

The other huge determinant of route is motivation

Someone who is only passingly concerned with whatever they’re hearing/reading will most likely digest the information through the peripheral route

I suspect this happens with evaluating the arguments of politicians

Whereas if the information is extremely important, e.g. about your health, your bills, etc., someone will likely use the central route

Elaboration Likelihood Model continued

Which route

Distraction is also a factor, it often forces people to process the information peripherally

Ability to understand the aspects of the decision matter as well

E.g. if you had to sit in on an advanced lecture on biochemistry, you may be processing it peripherally because you lack the requisite knowledge to process it centrally

In 1980 Petty & Caccioppo demonstrated this by showing that men were more easily persuaded by an article about current fashion trends, whereas women were more easily persuaded about a football article

Elaboration Likelihood Model continued

Attitude change from a message processed peripherally tends to be weaker than one processed centrally

Some peripheral cues people often attend to:

Experts know best

What’s beautiful is good

The more arguments the better

Good products are more expensive

Controlled vs automatic thinking

There are 5 key differences:


Automatic processing does not leave one feeling tired and taxed like controlled thinking does


Automatic processing occurs regardless of our intention, like when tried reading the Stroop test (black) quickly but automatic processing got in the way


Automatic processing happens faster


Automatic processing happens outside of awareness, e.g. driving a very familiar route


We don’t have control over automatic thinking (which is good and bad)

Automatic thinking

One way that automatic thinking is able to help us and save us time/effort is by making use of ‘knowledge structures’

Organized packets of information that are stored in memory

When people think about a concept, it becomes active in memory, and so do related concepts

When activated enough times, those concepts become a set, they run together like an airplane on autopilot

The following are some examples of this; automatic thinking in action


Schemas are an important way we go through life without expending too much effort to understand the world

We have schemas for everything

A fish (scales, slimy, gills, fins, etc.)

Playing golf (club, golf balls, tees, golf carts)

Driving in a car

When something unexpected occurs that violates our schema, this can give us pause and shift us into conscious, controlled thinking


Scripts are schemas for events

They guide our expectations and behavior in social situations

E.g. how to act at: a job interview, lunch with your mom, a party, a grocery store, etc.

They can be learned from direct experience

Or just from observational learning

You probably saw movie scenes from what a college party looks like long before you ever attended one


*Priming is an incredibly important concept

Concepts are linked together in memory

E.g. chalk and board, apple and juice

When a concept becomes active, so to do the other nearby/related concepts

William James described priming as, the “wakening of associations”

Let’s review how we know this happens from the wide variety of research on priming

Priming continued

If you are doing a word sorting task, and you sort ‘nurse,’ and then you are given ‘doctor’, you will sort doctor faster if the preceding word was nurse but not if it was aardvark

Participants were primed with a set of words that included neutral words (him, as, usually) and then either a rude word (bother) or a polite word (courteous)

Participants then have an interaction with an experimenter and a confederate; the participant must wait until they are finished talking

If primed with a rude word, participants are annoyed they had to wait and rate the experimenter as rude

This does not occur if primed with the concept of polite

Priming continued

Other studies in priming have yielded interesting results as well

If participants do a study during which subliminal images of old faces are flashed

Those participants walk down the hall more slowly when leaving the study than control condition participants

Legal psychology studies have demonstrated really clearly that guns prime violence

When participants came in for a study and saw objects on a nearby table, some saw a gun, some saw a racquet

Those who saw the gun behaved more aggressively (gave more shocks and higher voltage shocks) to an imagined confederate

Priming continued

Consider, for a moment, all of the implications of priming

If you have a bad interaction/argument with your roommate, how does that taint your perception of ambiguous events that follow it?

Would you think the cashier at the store was rude to you too?

If Sue works with kids all day, would the concepts of youth, energy, naivety, etc. all just be permanently primed for Sue?

If someone carries a gun, does that prime them to interpret ambiguous events as hostile?

Will that person be more likely to escalate a situation that could have been diffused because concepts of violence are already active in their mind?


Would you rather eat a hamburger that’s 10% fat or 90% lean?

Functionally, the same thing

But research says you’d be more likely

to eat it if it said 90% lean

Gain-framed appeals

Eating vegetables will prevent diabetes

Gain-framed appeals more effective when targeting behaviors that prevent a disease

Loss-framed appeals

If you don’t floss, you’ll have bad breath

Loss-framed appeals more effective at getting people to detect a disease they already have but are unaware of

Automatic processing

We just covered different ways in which automatic thinking can occur





We will essentially cover more next lecture when we discuss heuristics

For now though, let’s take a break and consider how some legal psychologists explain decision-making

Coherence Methodology

Participants read through a legal case and rated evidence at 3 different times while going through the case

Evidence Rating # 1 – Abstract Evidence Vignettes

Here participants read about unrelated, abstract situations relating to evidence, they’re not part of a story

E.g. How compelling would you find it if a witness who observed a crime identified the perpetrator from a line-up and stated he/she had 90% confidence in his/her identification

These same evidence scenarios comes up again later, as part of the case

-baseline. Unrelated. E.g. fingerprint

-Complex trial, both sides compelling. individ dm

-Same as earlier, just fleshed out now.

Mistake, no input from vet judge.


Coherence Methodology

Participants told they will now play the role of a trial judge & eventually render a verdict

Evidence Rating # 2

They now read through case narrative and provide their initial feelings about the case by rating each piece of evidence

These are the same pieces of evidence from before, only now they have the names from the trial and are strung together to form a narrative/story/case

The case is deliberately ambiguous, some pieces of evidence point to guilt, others point to innocence

Coherence Methodology

Participants are then given some time to consider their decision

Finally, participants were asked to render a verdict of guilty or not guilty

Evidence Rating # 3

Then they rated each piece of evidence again, after having provided their verdict


~ 50/50 split among participants in terms of voting guilty or not guilty

we would expect this, the trial was designed to be ambiguous


Almost all participants had ‘near maximum’ confidence in their decision

how?!?! How can they be so confidence with so much contrary evidence starring them in the face

Acquitters vs. ‘Convicters’

50/50 with respect to verdict. Amazing finding, pretty strong opinions. Little insight into these shifts when asked about them.


Coherence Results continued

Results from the previous slide

Over time, people’s decisions began to ‘cohere’/shift

Meaning, when a participant rated the evidence during the second set of ratings, if a participant was leaning toward the evidence implying the defendant’s guilt

Then by the time that participant reached a guilty verdict and rated the evidence one final time, he/she strongly believed the evidence implied the defendant was guilty

Even though everyone saw the same evidence, convictors strongly believe in the suspect’s guilt, acquiters strongly belived in the suspect’s innocence

And everyone’s ratings of each individual piece of evidence shifted in correspondence with their eventual decision

And remember, the evidence itself never changes


Every participant came to a polarized decision

we would have expected people to be more neutral, as that’s what the evidence reflects

When participants rated the evidence the first time, they rated it as neutral


***this is a huge problem for the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard***

look how much reasonable doubt there should have been in this trial. Half the evidence pointed to the defendant being not-guilty

yet 50% of people convicted the defendant

Discussion Cont’d

What was Simon’s explanation

of these ‘coherence’ findings?

1. The mind does NOT like ambiguity

it seeks to make complex decisions simple

coherent decisions that result in a confident choice

2. Each piece of evidence doesn’t seem to have a discrete ‘weight’ or ‘value’

they’re not just added up. Or we would have seen participants with neutral opinions

because half the evidence was inculpating and half exculpating.

Discussion Cont’d

Different from confirmation bias

they had no prior opinions to confirm

their initial ratings of evidence in the abstract were neutral

Different from Dissonance

it’s not a post-decision dissonance reduction finding

their opinions shifted throughout

a follow-up Simon study had them just try to memorize the case info (not make a decision)

people still ended up with polarized opinions!

Discussion Cont’d

The Coherence study results are an interesting illustration of conscious vs non-conscious decision-making

Participants were consciously trying to weigh the evidence and arrive at a verdict

Yet, when asked follow-up questions, participants did not realize their opinions had shifted so dramatically

The non-conscious/automated mind seems to function in such a way as to help us feel confident and secure when making our decisions

Even when the decisions are incredibly ambiguous

Take-home point

Try to be aware of coherence in your own complex decisions

is your mind shifting towards one conclusion just to shift? or is there really good reason for it?

Many facets of decision-making occur non-consciously

Be aware of overconfidence in decisions

Chapter 11

Attraction & Exclusion

Today’s Outline




Physical attractiveness



Causes of rejection

Effects of rejection


Attraction & Exclusion

As social animals, humans are, at their core, truly concerned with attraction and exclusion

Indeed the point of social psychology may be to understand why some are accepted and loved, while others are rejected

Take a moment to consider times in your life where you might have been afraid of romantic rejection or perhaps were seeking social acceptance with a new group of peers

Attraction & Exclusion

The need to belong is defined as the desire to form and maintain close, lasting relationships with some other individuals

Needing to belong is considered a fundamental drive or basic need of the human psyche

Warren Jones, “In two decades of studying loneliness, I have met many people who said they had no friends. I have never met any one who didn’t want to have any friends.”

Need to belong

From an evolutionary psychology perspective:

Attraction and acceptance are necessary for reproduction

Additionally, humans likely developed a herd mentality to increase our odds of survival

Consider all the ways we know our behavior changes in groups

Monkeys can recognize that any two monkeys may have an alliance, be forming one, or might be likely to fight

One theory is that the human brain developed more to keep track of a highly complex social world

Two components to belongingness

1. Regular, positive social interactions

Regular is key here, many of us have formed friendships but moved on to new situations in our life and lost regular contact with old friends

Positive is also key, hanging out with that person you always argue with doesn’t fill that social need

2. Stable relationship/friendship in which people share mutual concern for each other

Typically research has shown people want about 1-5 close friends

People are less concerned with casual friends/acquaintances

How bad for you is not belonging?

Belonging is called a need, not a want, perhaps for these reasons

Death rates from various diseases increase among people with no social connections (Lynch, 1979)

People who are alone have more mental and physical problems (Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996)

Loneliness reduces the ability of the immune system to heal the body (Cacioppo & Hawkley, 2005)

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites

Which old saying turns out to be true, “Birds of a feather flock together” or “Opposites attract”

The research has pointed to birds of a feather being the clear winner

In any relationship ranging from acquaintance to lover, opposites are unlikely to stay connected in the long run

Typically, but not always, our friends are similar in age, race, education level, political leaning, economic status, etc.

Note this is kind of a bad thing too, as it can lead us to assume everyone shares the opinions of your social group

How often do you see people unfriend others on Facebook over political disagreements?

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites


We tend to like friends who do the same activities that we do

Some researchers have even suggested that when a romantic couple gets into a relationship, if their levels of physical attractiveness aren’t quite similar, they will be more likely to break up

Have couples who are in different physical leagues stuck out to you as unusual?

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites

Indeed, matching

hypothesis has been

supported, couples

are more likely to break

up if there’s a difference

in physical attractiveness

(even serious couples)

Attractiveness & Attraction

Speaking of physical attractiveness, most of us would say ‘we know it when we see it,’ but how do researchers define and measure it?

For starters, which of these 3 faces is the most attractive?

Attractiveness & Attraction

I chose the middle one. According to research findings, most people would choose either the middle or the right photo

The left photo is the original

Attractiveness & Attraction

Facial symmetry

Symmetrical faces are almost always rated as more attractive

The more symmetrical, the better

The implication is that facial symmetry implies genetic fitness. Asymmetry is a sign of genetic imperfections

To demonstrate that genetics are the explanation behind this, researchers (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999) took the t-shirts that men slept in and asked women to smell and rate their scent

Some of the men had clear genetic asymmetry, length of pinky fingers or ear lobes

Women preferred the smell of men with genetic symmetry

They especially preferred the symmetric men’s scent when

at the point in their period when reproduction was ideal

Attractiveness & Attraction

Facial symmetry continued

More research has used computer software to merge/combine faces

For example, people rate the attractiveness of two faces, and then the faces are combined, and they rate the composite of the previous two faces

People mostly like composite faces better

In fact, the more faces that one combines, the more people liked it

E.g. a 16-face facial composite is preferred over a 4-face composite

Symmetrical, or ‘averaged,’ faces are preferred

Consider how saying someone looks inbred is the opposite

Lack of genetic diversity causes issues and is unappealing

Attractiveness & Attraction

Alright, we’ve covered faces, what about bodies?

Attractiveness & Attraction

Studies by Singh (1993) measured male ratings of silhouettes of woman’s bodies

He manipulated the size of the waist (belly fat) and the size of the hips

He find found that a low waist to hip ration, like .7, was preferred. This matches the standard hourglass shape people talk about

A small effect was found for women preferring men with a .9 waist to hip ratio

Subsequent research found the male shoulder to waist ratio was much more important, e.g. a V-shape

Attractiveness & Attraction

Alright, but how does physical attractiveness stack up to other aspects of attractiveness (having things in common, warmth, career success, etc.)

It can be summed up by one of my favorite quotes from your textbook authors:

“The fancy theories about matchmaking and similarity and reciprocity couldn’t shine through the overwhelming preference for the best-looking partners”

Attractiveness & Attraction

Attractiveness predicts date satisfaction more than any other dimension

Relates back to the Halo Effect, which can also be called ‘what is beautiful is good effect’

People (presumably) have other good traits if they’re attractive

Attractiveness & Attraction

Hortacsu and Ariely (2006) found that women stated a preference for taller men

But that preference could be offset if the man made enough money

E.g. for a 5 foot 8 inch guy, he could get as many dates as a taller guy if he made roughly 150k more

E.g. a 5 foot 2 guy could keep up with taller guys if he made 277k more than them

However, other research has shown that while women state a preference for taller guys, they don’t find them more attractive once having met them (Sheppard & Strathman, 1989)

Similarly, short men don’t report having less dates than tall men

Attractiveness & Attraction

Beyond considering romantic or sexual partners, being good looking confers other benefits. Good looking people are more likely to:

Do better in job interviews

Receive more help from strangers during emergencies

Be more popular among their peers

This even applies to young children

Teachers like attractive kids better as well

Finally, even 3-month-old babies show a preference for staring longer at attractive faces

Attractiveness & Attraction

According to principles of behaviorism:

We like people and romantic partners when they praise or compliment us (feels good, so we have positive associations with them)

We also like people who do us favors. This can take the form of help, gifts, cooking food, etc.

The exception in both of those cases is when the favors or compliments are seen as manipulative

Attractiveness & Attraction

As we discussed in the social influence chapter, reciprocity has compelling effects

As such, when someone likes us, we are inclined to like them by default

One exception is when we don’t like someone back and don’t want to spend time with them

Can cause us to feel guilty and/or turn them away

Attractiveness & Attraction

Nonverbal reciprocity

Lakin & Chartrand (2005) found that participants liked confederates better who mimicked their behavior (giggling, putting one’s hand on one’s face, etc.) than those confederates who didn’t mimic

Try it out in your life! Just don’t make it too obvious ;p

Attractiveness & Attraction

A few final points about attraction

The ‘mere exposure effect’ (Ch. 7) applies to liking people too

Also called the propinquity effect, we like people that we encounter regularly

Makes us feel like our environment is stable and predictable

But like the mere exposure effect, if our initial response is dislike, disliking gets worse

Social allergy effect: a partner’s annoying habits get more annoying over time


Rejection is a broad term, referring to being turned down for a date, being dumped, being fired, being kicked off of a team, not invited to an event with your usual friends, etc.

Ostracism is another word for it, being excluded, rejected, or ignored by others

Why does rejection occur?

What causes rejection

Reasons differ by context

Among children, other kids are rejected if they’re:

1. Aggressive

physically or verbally

2. Withdrawn

Often just by him/herself

3. Different/deviant

Just unlike peers in some way

What causes rejection

Among adults

Typically deviance

Just being too different from people around you

Shame on some level, because that stifles uniqueness

Bad apple

Making others of your group look bad

What causes rejection

Romantic Rejection

When turning people down, people often cite external reasons (too busy, not looking for a relationship, etc.)

But the reason is almost always internal (not attracted to person, don’t like them, etc.)

Those external answers are polite, but can lead to confusion

Rejected people can become a stalkers

There has also been a trend lately of men rejected by women to become violent and go on a shooting spree as a result

Psychological effects of rejection

The effects of rejection are uniformly bad




Suicidal thoughts

Life seeming pointless

Risky sexual behavior

People can develop rejection sensitivity

Reluctance to open up to new people for fear of being hurt

Psychological effects of rejection

Similar to shocking physical pain, sometimes the psychological response to an important rejection is numbness

The mental distress, anxiety, and sadness come later

Rejection makes people temporarily stupid, in terms of cognitive performance

Rejection also suppresses people’s ability to self-regulate or control their behavior

More likely to binge eat sweets

Behavioral effects of rejection

Less generous, cooperative, and helpful

More impulsive and destructive

Higher levels of aggression

Before shootings in the U.S. became so frequent, the narrative was that school shooters were often rejected outcasts

There may be some truth to that narrative, but it’s not always the case and it certainly doesn’t excuse shooting people


When we discuss lonely people, we mean chronically lonely, not temporarily because someone moved to a new city

Comparing lonely to non-lonely people defies a lot of the stereotypes about lonely people

There are no appreciable differences in attractiveness, intelligence, or general social skills between lonely and non-lonely people

But, lonely people do seem to do a bad job of detecting the emotional states of people they interact with

This may lead to friction in social relationships

Lonely people interact with others as often as non-lonely (quantity), but the interaction quality is poorer



Someone who is often lonely should get a pet! They help a lot

Improve at monitoring emotional states

Continuing to attempt to form meaningful bonds with people

Live closer to family

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