Understanding Social Perception And Social Cognition Psychology Essay

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This essay sets out to evaluate the view that people act as ,lay scientists, as they construct their social world; they observe and explore information coming too their senses in an objective rational manner. A number of theories underpin our understanding of social perception and social cognition. It is suggested personal reality is formed and pursued in reasoned ways and we can change our response to the environment. One theory suggests people process information akin to machines, if they are unsuccessful; they are held as illogical producing flawed information. Social psychologists use a number of experimental methods when evaluating the social world, perceptions and social cognition. Vignettes are used by researchers to symbolise aspects of the person,s social world. As these do not correspond to what happens in the real world; issues of ecological dependability are raised. Experimental studies seek to simplify how information about the social world is managed and schemas may influence / limit the handling of tentative information. The link between nature and nurture involves making efficient choices in challenging environmental conditions.

Fritz Heider (1958) social psychologist argues that people act as ,na,ve, or ,intuitive, scientists and psychologists; attributing positive events to self and negative events too others. If we are to understand social behaviour we need understand how people struggle to make sense of the social world and reduce uncertainty. This perspective suggests we use ,common-sense, to explain our individuality. We are said to require reliability and certainty in our world: constructing models of ,cause and effect, to manage our lives. Heider and Simmel (1944) show how people go outside information provided by their senses and the persuasive nature of ,cause and effect, (attributions). They see a ,skin-head, and attribute intrinsic values to the person , criminal, aggressive, drug user etc., these attributes are represented in the media and stories we have heard. They allow us respond quickly to perceived dangerous events: regrettably this may lead to systematic errors. Heider and Simmel (1944) social perception and cognition experiment do not necessarily have relevance to the broader social world. The experiment using a sequence of animated cartoons shots; provide some understanding of how individual act in a courtroom settings. However the relevance of this experiment to the broader world is questionable. The experiment relies on reducing the information to independent and dependent variable , real life is more complex than this.

Heider,s experiment can not represent normal life as it excludes a great range of ,constants and variables, that are found in human social interactions. It is not possible for this simplified experiment to explain complex dilemmas. However it provides a snap shot for one aspect of human perception , inanimate cartoons interpreted as having human behaviour (fighting, chasing etc.). The participants were told to interpret cartoons in terms of movement and responded in relation to the experimenters expectations. If this experiment were conducted across cultures, would Heider,s results match? In this experiment, participant,s previous knowledge of family life helped them interpret what they had seen. They relied on what they new about family life using their own ,schema,. What if the participants had not experienced ,chasing,, ,attacking,, etc., they may have had differing views, as too what was happening. So previous experiences or top down information has an important affect on how people respond too research. Is this the ,lay scientist, at work or simply one of many schema,s operating to assist people survive.

Bartlett (1932) suggests we have knowledge packages that are activated by a few bits of superficial information. The ,stereotype, example used was a skinhead wearing Doc Marten boots and combat trousers leading to a belief that we are in danger. Bartlett argues our whole ,cognitive, structure is ,stimulated, allowing for quick, efficient recognition of situations and objects. The strength and weakness of this argument is that most of us can relate too the claim, ,skinheads, are violent and dangerous. However it is not clear how we have come to identify with the sub-group in this particular way; other than through the media or stories. It seems that schema distort our perceptions and can be self-confirm. Joffe,s finding in relation to HIV / AIDS provides a similar example of naturalistic belief , people see danger in ways that reduce it for them. They locate the blame in the ,outgroup, using what is called ,not me, response.

Billig (1987) argues ,social thinking, involves making conscious decisions not simply using our schema; we seem to do more than just react to situations and events. Scientific principles can not be upheld when the same person is both observer and observed. It is not possible for the participant to remain consistently objective. In research or experiments it is necessary that the results must be repeatable. The ,lay scientist, can be seen as ,observer, and the ,observed, leading to complications when we speak of scientific principles.

Billig,s (1987) we do more than react to events and situations maintaining the view that we carry out internal conversations about daily problems or events. This conflicts with the ,cognitive miser mode, which focuses on cognitive effectiveness. Fiske and Taylor (1991) go beyond Billig,s distinguishing between survival skills and higher thinking levels. They agree most behaviour’s are automatic while motivated through need. Their evidence comes from observational and qualitive research studies Ruscher et al. (2000) supports the view of ,motivational relevance,; how people are motivated too gain advantage over competitors. Groups and individuals attempt to process information at ,higher levels,, gaining advantage survival and reproductive advantage. Rusher et al. links individual behaviour and task completion and notes individuals can overlook personal and biased views. The evidence supports the view that we do think at higher levels. This however will not support an argument of us operating as ,lay scientists,. Ruscher et al. (2000) leans toward the schema argument, that a scientific process. It seems we generalise and categorise our world selecting small information packages which become integrated into our broader perspective. Rusher argument provides no evidence of us being ,lay scientists, and having higher thinking abilities. Is there a link between ,higher thinking, and scientific analysis? If we are using scientific tools we must go beyond describing events, we must be analytical in our approach.

Bartlett (1932) example describing a ,skinhead, shows we use top down knowledge of social categories when information processing. M,ller-Lyer (1982) Revesz (1932) Over (1968) haptic illusions demonstrate how we must go beyond perception and analysis to overcome ,perceptual compromise,. Gibson (1950) theory suggests we see the world in a holistic way with the environment glimpsed from many angles. Gregor,s (1950) theory put forward the view information and events are like snapshots. Bruce et al. (1996) Gibson (1950) theory on visually behaviour a frog senses an object and reacts. It would appear that that it is only necessary to have cause and effect to survive.

Edmund Husserl (1931) describes our consciousness as making contact with the environment, somehow drawing on previous personal experiences to create new understanding. Husserl (1931) cube example indicates we have greater abilities than ,seeing and reacting,. It appears we have the competence to assemble new realities of mind; and go beyond what we have previously experienced. We create new realities from previous knowledge and new experiences. Skinner (1938) describes human,s having a body that is motivated to respond with the environment; no different too a billiard ball hit by an object. Skinner (1938) we may be misguided by thinking we are motivated by wishes, feelings and thoughts.

It is not clear from the research whether people act as ,lay scientists, as they construct their social world. Much of the research suggests we operate automatically and unconsciously without much deliberation. Social psychologists argue that we act as ,intuitive, scientists helping us deal with our need for predictability and certainty in the world. Schemas have costs and benefits and sometimes lead to systematic errors. Experiments conducted in the laboratory do not illustrate diversity of real life. Schemas provide us with ,stereotypes, lead to ,bias,; they distort perceptions and become self-confirming. Interpretations of current events are supported by previous experiences. We can go beyond our instincts and operate higher levels as ,social thinkers,. If we see ourselves as ,lay scientist, we challenge the basis of scientific enquiry. We can not be the observer and observed and remain objective. The world should be seen holistically we need to go beyond a sense of ,cause and effect, We are connected to the environment and the environment to us; what we sense determines how we respond.


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Approximately 250 words