Week 8: Attitudes & Social Cognition

Attitudes & Behavior

Attitudes are: thoughts/evaluations/

propensities to behave in relation to a particular

object act event

How much do attitudes guide our behavior?

* Less than people expect

* Need to consider level of aggregation

* Also need to consider




[Go over Ajzen & Fishbein theory of reasoned action/planned behavior]

Theory of reasoned action:

Attitudes & Subjective Norm

lead to Behavioral Intentions

which lead to behavior

Theory of planned behavior:

Perceived behavioral control is third factor affecting behavior intention; it also directly affects behavior.


How does it differ from nonsocial cognition?

More ambiguous

Relies on theory of mind


Engages the self


Collection of mental representations that are associated and function together as a unit

Used to make sense of social situations and to guide behavior

More COGNITIVE, less AFFECTIVE than attitude.

Scripts are more elaborate schemas for a sequence of actions


Schemas that represent members of a social category


Negative attitude toward members of a social category

Components in prejudice:

* defense mechanisms: displacement of hostility

* authoritarian personality (based on family dynamics)

* automatic processing of negative stereotypes

* defense of status quo (political/economic)

in-group bias

Stereotypes & prejudice also apply to the self

Stereotypes come from:

Learned associations (direct learning or taught)

Illusory correlation--tendency to assume a correlation when rare events are paired, because they are both distinctive


Can attribute people's behavior to INTERNAL factors (personality, disposition, current state of mind), to EXTERNAL factors (characteristics of the situation) or to some mixture.

Covariation theory of attribution says that "lay" people--the "folk"--pay attention to three ways behavior may or may not covary:

* consensus (across people)

* consistency (across time)

distinctiveness (across situation)


We are more likely to attribute action to EXTERNAL causes (situation) when action shows

HIGH CONSENSUS across actors

(Others are behaving the same way--insulting Joe)

HIGH DISTINCTIVENESS across situations

(Bill isn't insulting to other people in other situations)


(Bill makes insulting comment only once)

External: Unique act for actor; but others behave the same.

We are likely to make an INTERNAL attribution (person factors of the actor) when action shows:

LOW CONSENSUS across actors

(Only Bill acts this way)

LOW DISTINCTIVENESS across situations

(Bill insults people in other situations)


(Bill always insults Joe)

Internal: Typical act for actor; but others don't act this way.

Do people really follow this model?

Problem: presumes numerous observations and suspension of judgment until sufficient data is in

But people make attributions for SINGLE events.

Americans are quick to make PERSON attributions--tend to pay too little attention to the situation as a cause of behavior

This is the

Fundamental Attribution Error

Why does FAE occur?

Because of salience of person & two step processing; second step often omitted

[show one-stage & two-stage slide--one-stage, which integrates information about both the behavior & the situation would be used perhaps if all info available; for single event, people notice the behavior and quickly make a disposition attribution, modifying this--if they think about it--by considering both disposition and situation]

When doesn't FAE occur?

1. In more COLLECTIVIST societies (Triandis, 1994) in which conception of self is more INTERDEPENT, less INDEPENDENT

2. In INDIVIDUALISTIC societies when making attributions about one's OWN actions

The Self

Defined: Self is the totality of thoughts and feelings about ourselves


Schemas that organize these thoughts & feelings into coherent structures

** exercise **

William James: Self as

Subject (experience--I)

Object (view of self--me)

Ideal (imagined possible self)

Actual (experienced self)

Ought (socially defined ideal for self)

True (private self as experienced)

False (facade based on "ought" self)

Private (How I view me)

Public (How others view me)

Collective self (The I that is WE)

Independent Self: Individualist view

Interdependent Self: Collectivist view

Cultures differ on what is fundamental

People also differ in the importance of these two aspects of self WITHIN cultures (allocentrism, ideocentrism)

and also WITHIN people ACROSS time

"I am" exercise:

People in Collectivist cultures typically score

20-50% S

People in Individualist cultures typically score

0-15% S

People also vary within cultures in the relative emphasis on independent or interdependent self; the person-level variable is called idiocentrism vs allocentrism (Triandis, 1994).