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expression of emotion. The ambivalent individuals, when trying to read people in an
emotional situation or to read their facial expressions, quite often inferred the opposite
emotion than the one the individuals actually felt and reported. Ambivalent individuals
who spend much energy in being inexpressive or suppressing emotional reactions quite
easily inferred that others also were hiding their emotions, and what they saw was not
what was meant. This simply may mean that people who are comfortable with their
own emotional expressiveness are more accurate in reading other peopleʼs emotional
expressions.
Kingʼs work, then, suggests that in our ability to accurately read other people,
much depends on our own emotional life. Consider another example of this: Weary and
Edwards (1994) suggested that mild or moderately depressed people are much more
anxious than others to understand social information. This is because depressives often
feel that they have little control over their social world and that their efforts to effect
changes meet with little success.
Edwards and his coworkers have shown that depressives are much more tuned to
social information and put more effort into trying to determine why people react to them
as they do. Depressives are highly vigilant processors of social information (Edwards,
Weary, von Hippel, & Jacobson, 1999). One would think that depressivesʼ vigilance
would make them more accurate in reading people. Depressed people often have prob-
lems with social interactions, and this vigilance is aimed at trying to ¬gure out why and
perhaps alter these interactions for the better. But here again, we can see the importance
of nonconscious behavior. Edwards and colleagues pointed out that depressed people
behave in ways that “turn others off.” For example, depressives have trouble with eye
contact, voice pitch, and other gestures that arouse negative reactions in others. In fact,
Edwards and colleagues suggested that all this effortful processing detracts depressed
individuals from concentrating on enjoyable interactions.
Social Psychology
70


Con¬dence and Impression Formation
Our ability to read other people may depend on the quality of our own emotional life,
but the con¬dence we have in our impressions of others appears to depend, not sur-
prisingly, on how much we think we know about the other person. Con¬dence in our
impressions of other people is important because, as with other beliefs held with great
conviction, we are more likely to act on them. If, for example, we are sure that our friend
would not lie to us, we then make decisions based on that certainty. The commander
of the Vincennes certainly was con¬dent in his interpretation of the deadly intent of the
aircraft on his radar screen.
However, con¬dence in our judgment may not necessarily mean that it is accu-
rate. Wells (1995) showed that the correlation between accuracy and con¬dence in
eyewitness identi¬cation is very modest, and sometimes there is no relationship at all.
Similarly, Swann and Gill (1997) reported that con¬dence and accuracy of perception
among dating partners and among roommates were not very good.
Gill and his colleagues found that when individuals were required to form a
careful impression of an individual, including important aspects of the targetʼs life”
intellectual ability, social skills, physical attractiveness, and so forth”and they had
access to information derived from a videotaped interview with the target person, they
had high con¬dence in their judgments of the target. This is not surprising, of course.
But what might be surprising is that con¬dence had no impact on the accuracy of the
participantsʼ judgment (experiment 1; Gill, Swann, & Silvera, 1998). In another series
of studies, these researchers amply demonstrated that having much information about
a target makes people even more con¬dent of their judgments, because they can recall
and apply information about these people easily and ¬‚uently. But, the judgments are no
more accurate than when we have much less information about someone. What is most
disturbing about these ¬ndings is that it is precisely those situations in which we have
much information and much con¬dence that are most important to us. These situations
involve close relationships of various kinds with people who are very signi¬cant in our
lives. But the research says we make errors nevertheless, even though we are con¬dent
and possess much information.
Our modest ability to read other people accurately may be due to the fact that our
attention focuses primarily on obvious, expressive cues at the expense of more subtle
but perhaps more reliable cues. Bernieri, Gillis, and their coworkers showed in a series
of experiments that observers pay much attention to overt cues such as when people
are extraverted and smile a great deal. Bernieri and Gillis suggested that expressivity
(talking, smiling, gesturing) drives social judgment but that people may not recognize
that expressivity determines their judgments (Bernieri et al., 1996).

If at First You Don™t Like Someone, You May Never Like Them
Certainly, this heading is an overstatement but probably not by much. Letʼs state the
obvious: We like to interact with those people of whom we have a really positive
impression. And, we stay away from those we donʼt like very much. That makes sense.
But as Denrell (2005) has suggested, one problem with that approach is that there is a
“sample bias,” which happens when the level of interaction between people is deter-
mined by ¬rst impressions. This sample bias goes something like this: Imagine you are
a member of a newly formed group, and you begin to interact with others in the group.
You meet Person A, who has low social skills. Your interaction with him is limited,
and your tendency, understandably, is to avoid him in the future. Now Person B is dif-
Chapter 3 Social Perception: Understanding Other People 71

ferent. She has excellent social skills, and conversation with her is easy and ¬‚uid. You
will obviously sample more of Person Bʼs behavior than Person Aʼs. As a result, poten-
tially false negative impressions of Person A never get changed, while a false posi-
tive impression of B could very well be changed if you were to “sample” more of her
behavior (Denrell, 2005).
An important point that Denrell (2005) makes, then, about impression formation is
that if there are biases in the sampling (the kind and amount of interaction with some-
body), then systematic biases in impression formation will occur. This may be espe-
cially true of individuals who belong to groups with which we have limited contact.
We never get the opportunity to interact with those members in enough situations to
form fair impressions based upon a representative sample of their behavior. Therefore,
we never have enough evidence to correct a negative or a positive false ¬rst impres-
sion because we rarely interact again with a person with whom we have had a negative
initial interaction (Plant & Devine, 2003).

Person Perception: Reading Faces and Catching Liars
When we say that we can “read” othersʼ emotions, what we really mean is that we can
“read” their faces. The face is the prime stimulus for not only recognizing someone
but forming an impression of them as well. Recent neuroscience research has yielded a
wealth of information about face perception and its neural underpinnings. For example,
we know that human face processing occurs in the occipital temporal cortex and that
other parts of the brain are involved in determining the identity of the person (Macrae,
Quinn, Mason, & Quad¬‚ieg, 2005). We also know that we are quite good at deter-
mining basic information about people from their faces even under conditions that
hinder optimal perception. For example, Macrae and his colleagues, in a series of three
experiments, presented a variety of male, female, and facelike photographs, some in an
inverted position, and in spite of the “suboptimal” presentation of these stimuli, their
subjects could reasonably report the age and sex of the person. In this case, Macrae et
al. suggest that acquisition of fundamental facial characteristics (age, sex, race) appears
to be automatic.
So we know that getting information from faces is hard-wired in our brains and we
know where that wiring is. But there is also evidence for the early start of facial percep-
tion. Even newborns have rudimentary abilities that allow them to distinguish several
facial expressions, although it is only at the end of the ¬rst year that infants seem to be
able to assign meaning to emotional expressions (Gosselin, 2005).

It Is Hard to Catch a Liar: Detecting Deception
If, as the research shows, we are not very good at reading people, even those with
whom we have close relationships, then you might suspect that we are not very good
at detecting lies and liars. In general, you are right. But some people can learn to be
quite accurate in detecting lies. Paul Ekman and his coworkers asked 20 males (ages
18 to 28) to indicate how strongly they felt about a number of controversial issues.
These males were then asked to speak to an interrogator about the social issue about
which they felt most strongly. Some were asked to tell the truth; others were asked to
lie about how they felt (Ekman, OʼSullivan, & Frank, 1999). If the truth tellers were
believed, they were rewarded with $10; liars who were believed were given $50. Liars
who were caught and truth tellers who were disbelieved received no reward. So, the
Social Psychology
72

20 males were motivated to do a good job. Ekman and his colleagues ¬lmed the faces
of the 20 participants and found that there were signi¬cant differences in facial move-
ments between liars and truth tellers.
The researchers were interested in whether people in professions in which detec-
tion of lies is important were better than the average person in identifying liars and truth
tellers. Ekman tested several professional groups, including federal of¬cers (CIA agents
and others), federal judges, clinical psychologists, and academic psychologists. In pre-
vious research, the ¬ndings suggested that only a small number of U.S. Secret Service
agents were better at detecting lies than the average person, who is not every effective
at recognizing deception. Figure 3.2 shows that federal of¬cers were most accurate at
detecting whether a person was telling the truth. Interestingly, these of¬cers were more
accurate in detecting lies than truth. Clinical psychologists interested in deception were
next in accuracy, and again, they were better at discerning lies than truth telling.
The best detectors focused not on one clue but rather on a battery of clues or symp-
toms. Ekman notes that no one clue is a reliable giveaway. Perhaps the most dif¬cult
obstacle in detecting liars is that any one cue or series of cues may not be applicable
across the board. Each liar is different; each detector is different as well. Ekman found
a wide range of accuracy within each group, with many detectors being at or below
chance levels.
If people are not very good at detecting lies, then they ought not to have much
con¬dence in their ability to do so. But as DePaulo and her colleagues have shown,
peopleʼs con¬dence in their judgments as to whether someone else is telling the truth
is not reliably related to the accuracy of their judgments (DePaulo, Charlton, Cooper,
Lindsay, & Muhlenbruck, 1997). People are more con¬dent in their judgments when
they think that the other person is telling the truth, whether that person is or not, and
men are more con¬dent, but not more accurate, than are women. The bottom line is that
we cannot rely on our feelings of con¬dence to reliably inform us if someone is lying or
not. As suggested by the work of Gillis and colleagues (1998) discussed earlier, being
in a close relationship and knowing the other person well is no great help in detecting
lies (Anderson, Ans¬eld, & DePaulo, 1998). However, we can take some comfort in the
results of research that shows that people tell fewer lies to the individuals with whom
they feel closer and are more uncomfortable if they do lie. When people lied to close
others, the lies were other-oriented, aimed at protecting the other person or making
things more pleasant or easier (DePaulo & Kashy, 1999).
In a book by neurologist Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Hat for His Wife,
there is a scene in which brain-damaged patients, all of whom had suffered a stroke,
accident, or tumor to the left side of the brain (aphasics) and therefore had language
disorders, were seen laughing uproariously while watching a TV speech by President
Ronald Reagan. Dr. Sacks speculated that the patients were picking up lies that others
were not able to catch.
There is now some evidence that Sacksʼs interpretation may have been right.
Etcoff, Ekman, and Frank (2000) suggested that language may hide the cues that would
enable us to detect lying, and therefore those with damage to the brainʼs language
centers may be better at detecting lies. The indications are that when people lie, their
true intent is re¬‚ected by upper facial expressions, whereas the part of the face around
the mouth conveys the false emotional state the liar is trying to project. It may be that
aphasics use different brain circuitry to detect liars. For the rest of us, itʼs pretty much
pure chance.
Chapter 3 Social Perception: Understanding Other People 73




Figure 3.2 Accuracy
of individuals in various
professions in detecting who
is deceptive.
Based on data from Ekman, O™Sullivan, and
Frank (1999).




A recent examination of over 1,300 studies concerning lying has shown how faint
the traces of deception are (DePaulo, Lindsay, Malone, Charlton, & Cooper, 2003). This
massive review indicates that there are “158” cues to deception, but many of them are
faint or counterintuitive”things that you might not expect. So, liars say less than truth
tellers and tell stories that are less interesting, less compelling. The stories liars tell us,
however, are more complete, more perfect. Clearly, liars think more about what they are
going to say than do truth tellers. Cues that would allow us to detect lying are stronger
when the liar is deceiving us about something that involves his or her identity (personal
items) as opposed to when the liar is deceiving about nonpersonal things.
To illustrate the dif¬culties, consider eye contact. According to DePaulo et al. (2003)
motivated liars avoid eye contact more than truth tellers and unmotivated liars. So, the
motivation of the liar is important. To further complicate matters, other potential cues to
lying, such as nervousness, may not help much in anxiety-provoking circumstances. Is
the liar or the truth teller more nervous when on trial for her life? Perhaps nervousness
is a cue in traf¬c court but maybe not in a felony court (DePaulo et al., 2003).
We know, then, that the motivation of the liar may be crucial in determining which
cues to focus on. Those who are highly motivated may just leave some traces of their
deception. DePauloʼs question about what cues liars signal if they are at high risk and
therefore highly motivated was examined by Davis and her colleagues (2005), who used
videotaped statements of criminal suspects who were interviewed by assistant district
attorneys (DAs). This was after the suspects had been interviewed by the police, who
had determined that a crime had been committed by these individuals. These were
high-stakes interviews because the assistant DAs would determine the severity of the
charge based on the results of the interviews. All the criminals claimed some mitigating
circumstances (Davis, Markus, Walters, Vorus, & Connors, 2005).
In this study, the researchers knew the details of the crimes so they, by and large,
knew when the criminal was lying and could match his or her behavior (language and
gestures) against truthful and deceitful statements. While the researchers determined
that the criminals made many false statements, the deception cues were few, limited,
Social Psychology
74

and lexical (e.g., saying no and also shaking the head no) (Davis et al., 2005, p. 699).
The lady “doth protest too much, methinks,” as William Shakespeare wrote in Act 3
of “Hamlet,” has the ring of truth, for those criminals who did protest too much by
repeating phrases ands vigorous head shaking were in fact lying. Curiously, nonlexical
sounds (sighing, saying umm or er) were indicators of truth telling. This latter ¬nding
may relate to DePaulo et al.ʼs observation that liars try to present a more organized
story then do truth tellers.
And sometimes, the liar may be a believer. True story: Not long ago an elderly
gentleman was unmasked as a liar when his story of having won a Medal of Honor in
combat during World War II was shown to be false. By all newspaper accounts, he was
a modest man, but every Memorial Day he would wear his Medal and lead the townʼs
parade. The Medal was part of his identity, and the town respected his right not to talk
about his exploits. It is a federal crime to falsely claim to be a Medal of Honor winner.
Those who questioned the man about his false claims came to understand that he had
played the role for so long it truly became a part of him, and thus after a while, he was
not being deceptive. He came to believe who he said he was.


The Attribution Process: Deciding Why People Act
As They Do
We make inferences about a personʼs behavior because we are interested in the cause
of that behavior. When a person is late for a meeting, we want to know if the individual
simply didnʼt care or if something external, beyond his or her control, caused the late
appearance. Although there is a widespread tendency to overlook external factors as
causes of behavior, if you conclude that the person was late because of, say, illness at
home, your inferences about that behavior will be more moderate than if you determined
he or she didnʼt care (Vonk, 1999).
Each of the theories developed to explain the process provides an important piece of
the puzzle in how we assign causes and understand behavior. The aim of these theories
is to illuminate how people decide what caused a particular behavior. The theories are
not concerned with ¬nding the true causes of someoneʼs behavior. They are concerned
with determining how we, in our everyday lives, think and make judgments about the
perceived causes of behaviors and events.
In this section, two basic in¬‚uential attribution theories or models are introduced,
as well as additions to those models:
• Correspondent inference theory
• Covariation theory
• Dual-process models
The ¬rst two, correspondent inference theory and covariation theory, are the oldest and
most general attempts to describe the attribution process. Others represent more recent,
less formal approaches to analyzing attribution.

Heider™s Early Work on Attribution
The ¬rst social psychologist to systematically study causal attribution was Fritz Heider.
He assumed that individuals trying to make sense out of the social world would follow

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