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People arrange knowledge and information about themselves into self-schemas.
A self-schema contains information about gender, age, race or ethnicity,
occupation, social roles, physical attractiveness, intelligence, talents, and so on.
Self-schemas help us interpret situations and guide our behavior. For example,
a sexual self-schema refers to how we think about the sexual aspects of the self.
5. What is autobiographical memory?
The study of autobiographical memory”memory information relating to
the self”shows that the self plays a powerful role in the recall of events.
Researchers have found that participants recalled recent events more quickly
than older ones, pleasant events more quickly than unpleasant ones, and
extreme events, pleasant and unpleasant, more quickly than neutral episodes.
Pleasant events that especially ¬t the personʼs self-concept were most
easily recalled.
6. What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is an evaluation of our overall worth that consists of both positive
and negative self-evaluations. We evaluate, judge, and have feelings about
ourselves. Some people possess high self-esteem, regard themselves highly, and
are generally pleased with who they are. Others have low self-esteem, feel less
worthy and good, and may even feel that they are failures and incompetent.
Chapter 2 The Social Self 59

7. How do we evaluate the self?
We evaluate the self by continually adjusting perceptions, interpretations, and
memories”the self works tirelessly behind the scenes to maintain positive self-
evaluations, or high self-esteem. Self-esteem is affected both by our ideas about
how we are measuring up to our own standards and by our ability to control
our sense of self in interactions with others. Positive evaluations of the self are
enhanced when there is a good match between who we are (the actual self) and
what we think weʼd like to be (the ideal self) or what others believe we ought
to be (the ought self). When there are differences between our actual self and
either what we would like to be or what we ought to be, we engage in self-
regulation, our attempts to match our behavior to what is required by the ideal
or the ought self.
8. What is so good about high self-esteem?
Researchers have found that while high self-esteem may lead to good feelings
and may make people more resourceful, it does not cause high academic
achievement, good job performance, or leadership; nor does low self-esteem
cause violence, smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or becoming sexually active at
an early age.
9. What are implicit and explicit self-esteem?
Implicit self-esteem refers to a very ef¬cient system of self-evaluation that is
below our conscious awareness. Implicit self-esteem comes from parents who
nurture their children but do not overprotect them. This kind of self-esteem
is unconscious and automatic and is less likely to be affected by day-to-day
events.
In comparison, the more well-known conception of self-esteem, explicit
self-esteem, arises primarily from the interaction with people in our everyday
lives. High implicit self-esteem is related to very positive health and social
attributes, while explicit self-esteem seems to be a more fragile or defensive
self-esteem, which accounts for the emotional reactions that threats to these
individuals evoke
10. What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is a personʼs ability to perceive, use, understand, and
manage emotions. Research indicates that individuals who are emotionally
intelligent are more successful in personal and work relationships. These
individuals are very aware of their own emotional states, use them as
information, and are very good at reading other peopleʼs emotions.
11. What is self-evaluation maintenance (SEM) theory?
According to Abraham Tesserʼs self-evaluation maintenance (SEM) theory, the
high achievement of a close other in a self-relevant area is perceived as a threat.
In response, we can downplay the otherʼs achievement, put more distance
between ourselves and the other, work hard to improve our own performance,
or try to handicap the other.
Social Perception:
Understanding
Other People
Nobody outside of a baby carriage or a judgeʼs
chamber believes in an unprejudiced point of view.
”Lillian Helman




In July 1988, the U.S. guided missile frigate Vincennes was on patrol in the Key Questions
Persian Gulf. A state-of-the-art ship carrying the most sophisticated radar As you read this chapter,
and guidance systems, the Vincennes became embroiled in a skirmish with ¬nd the answers to the
some small Iranian naval patrol boats. During the skirmish, Captain Will following questions:
Rogers III received word from the radar room that an unidenti¬ed aircraft
1. What is impression formation?
was heading toward the ship. The intruder was on a descending path, the
2. What are automatic and
radar operators reported, and appeared to be hostile. It did not respond to
controlled processing?
the ship™s IFF (identify friend or foe) transmissions, nor were further attempts to
3. What is meant by a cognitive
raise it on the radio successful. Captain Rogers, after requesting permission
miser?
from his superior, ordered the ¬ring of surface-to-air missiles; the missiles hit
and destroyed the plane. The plane was not an Iranian ¬ghter. It was an 4. What evidence is there for the
importance of nonconscious
Iranian Airbus, a commercial plane on a twice-weekly run to Dubai, a city
decision making?
across the Strait of Hormuz. The airbus was completely destroyed, and all
290 passengers were killed. 5. What is the effect of
automaticity on behavior and
Following the tragedy, Captain Rogers defended his actions. But
emotions?
Commander David Carlson of the nearby frigate Sides, 20 miles away,
reported that his crew accurately identi¬ed the airbus as a passenger plane. 6. Are our impressions of others
accurate?
His crew saw on their radar screen that the aircraft was climbing from
12,000 to 14,000 feet (as tapes later veri¬ed) and that its ¬‚ight pattern 7. What is the sample bias?
resembled that of a civilian aircraft (Time, August 15, 1988). The crew of 8. Can we catch liars?
the Sides did not interpret the plane™s actions as threatening, nor did they
9. What is the attribution
think an attack was imminent. When Commander Carlson learned that the process?
Vincennes had ¬red on what was certainly a commercial plane, he was so
10. What are internal and
shocked he almost vomited (Newsweek, July 13, 1992). Carlson™s view was
external attributions?
11. What is the correspondent
inference theory, and what
factors enter into forming a
correspondent inference?
61
Social Psychology
62


backed up by the fact that the “intruder” was correctly identi¬ed as a commercial
12. What are covariation aircraft by radar operators on the U.S.S. Forrestal, the aircraft carrier and ¬‚agship
theory and the of the mission (Newsweek, July 13, 1992).
covariation principle?
What happened during the Vincennes incident? How could the crew of the
13. How do consensus, Vincennes have “seen” a commercial plane as an attacking enemy plane on
consistency, and their radar screen? How could the captain have so readily ordered the ¬ring of
distinctiveness
the missiles? And how could others”the crews of the Sides and the Forrestal, for
information lead to
instance”have seen things so differently?
an internal or external
The answers to these questions reside in the nature of human cognition. The
attribution?
captain and crew of the Vincennes constructed their own view of reality based
14. What is the dual-
on their previous experiences, their expectations of what was likely to occur, and
process model of
their interpretations of what was happening at the moment”as well as their fears
attribution, and what
and anxieties. All these factors were in turn in¬‚uenced by the context of current
does it tell us about the
attribution process? international events, which included a bitter enmity between the United States
and what was perceived by Americans as an extremist Iranian government.
15. What is meant by
The captain and crew of the Vincennes remembered a deadly attack on an
attribution biases?
American warship the previous year in the same area. They strongly believed
16. What is the
that they were likely to be attacked by an enemy aircraft, probably one carrying
fundamental attribution
error? advanced missiles that would be very fast and very accurate. If this occurred, the
captain knew he would need to act quickly and decisively. The radar crew saw
17. What is the actor-
an unidenti¬ed plane on their screen. Suddenly they called out that the aircraft
observer bias?
was descending, getting in position to attack. The plane didn™t respond to their
18. What is the false
radio transmissions. Weighing the available evidence, Captain Rogers opted to
consensus bias?
¬re on the intruder.
19. What is the importance
The commander and crew of the Sides had a different view of the incident.
of ¬rst impressions?
They saw the incident through the ¬lter of their belief that the Vincennes was
20. What are schemas, and
itching for a ¬ght. From their point of view, a passenger plane was shot down
what role do they play
and 290 lives were lost as a result of the hair-trigger reaction of the overly
in social cognition?
aggressive crew.
21. What is the self-
These different views and understandings highlight a crucial aspect of
ful¬lling prophecy, and
human behavior: Each of us constructs a version of social reality that ¬ts with our
how does it relate to
perception and interpretation of events (Jussim, 1991). We come to understand
behavior?
our world through the processes of social perception, the strategies and methods
22. What are the various
we use to understand the motives and behavior of other people.
types of heuristics that
This chapter looks at the tools and strategies people use to construct social
often guide social
cognition? reality. We ask, What cognitive processes are involved when individuals are
attempting to make sense of the world? What mechanisms come into play
23. What is meant by
when we form impressions of others and make judgments about their behavior
metacognition?
and motives? How accurate are these impressions and judgments? And what
24. How do optimism and
accounts for errors in perception and judgment that seem to inevitably occur in
pessimism relate to
social interactions? How do we put all of the social information together to get
social cognition and
behavior? a whole picture of our social world? These are some of the questions addressed
in this chapter.
25. How do distressing
events affect happiness?
26. What does evolution
have to do with
optimistic biases?
Chapter 3 Social Perception: Understanding Other People 63


Impression Formation: Automaticity and
Social Perception
The process by which we make judgments about others is called impression formation. impression formation
The process by which we
We are primed by our culture to form impressions of people, and Western culture
make judgments about others.
emphasizes the individual, the importance of “what is inside the person,” as the cause of
behavior (Jones, 1990). We also may be programmed biologically to form impressions of
those who might help of hurt us. It is conceivable that early humans who survived were
better at making accurate inferences about others, had superior survival chances”and
those abilities are part of our genetic heritage (Flohr, 1987). It makes sense that they were
able to form relatively accurate impressions of others rather effortlessly. Because grossly
inaccurate impressions”is this person dangerous or not, trustworthy or not, friend or
foe”could be life threatening, humans learned to make those judgments ef¬ciently.
Those who could not were less likely to survive. So, ef¬ciency and effortlessness in
perception are critical goals of human cognition.
Social psychologists interested in cognition are primarily concerned with how the
individual tries to make sense out of what is occurring in his or her world under the
uncertain conditions that are a part of normal life (Mischel, 1999). Much of our social
perception involves automatic processing”forming impressions without much thought
or attention (Logan, 1989). Thinking that is conscious and requires effort is referred to
controlled processing
as controlled processing.
An effortful and careful
processing of information
Automatic Processing that occurs when we are
motivated to accurately assess
Automatic processing is thinking that occurs primarily outside consciousness. It is
information or if our initial
effortless in the sense that it does not require us to use any of our conscious cognitive
impressions or expectations
capacity. We automatically interpret an upturned mouth as a smile, and we automati-
are discon¬rmed.
cally infer that the smiling person is pleased or happy (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Such
automatic processing
interpretations and inferences, which may be built into our genetic makeup, are beyond
The idea that because of our
our conscious control.
limited information processing
Running through all our social inference processes”the methods we use to judge capacity, we construct social
other people”is a thread that seems to be part of our human makeup: our tendency to impressions without much
prefer the least effortful means of processing social information (Taylor, 1981). This thought or effort, especially
when we lack the motivation
is not to say we are lazy or sloppy; we simply have a limited capacity to understand
for careful assessment or
information and can deal with only relatively small amounts at any one time (Fiske,
when our initial impressions
1993). We tend to be cognitive misers in the construction of social reality: Unless
are con¬rmed.
motivated to do otherwise, we use just enough effort to get the job done. In this busi-
ness of constructing our social world, we are pragmatists (Fiske, 1992). Essentially
we ask ourselves, What is my goal in this situation, and what do I need to know to
reach that goal?
Although automatic processing is the preferred method of the cognitive miser, there
is no clear line between automatic and controlled processing. Rather, they exist on a
continuum, ranging from totally automatic (unconscious) to totally controlled (con-
scious), with degrees of more and less automatic thinking in between.

The Importance of Automaticity in Social Perception
Recall the work of Roy Baumeister discussed in Chapter 2. His work concluded that
even small acts of self-control such as forgoing a tempting bite of chocolate use up our
self-control resources for subsequent tasks. However, Baumeister and Sommer (1997)
Social Psychology
64

suggested that although the conscious self is important, it plays a causal and active role

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