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Balcetis & Dunning (2006): See What You Want to See: Motivational Influences On Visual Perception

The study suggests that the impact of motivation on information processing extends down into preconscious processing of stimuli in the visual environment and thus guides what the visual system presents to conscious awareness.

Each participant was presented a figure that could be interpreted in two different ways: one way that would assign participants to their favored task and one that would assign them to the opposite
o A motivated preference might lower the threshold required for the visual system to decide if matches the favored interpretation
o Since people are not aware that selected one interpretation over another, or aware that there is even an alternative interpretation, it is likely a preconscious process that biases the interpretation

Study 1: interpreting ambiguous figure as a letter or a number would result in either drinking freshly squeezed orange juice or drinking a noxious smelling health drink
o Prediction was that participants would tend to report to interpretation that offered them preferable drink

Study 2: horse-seal figure
o Similar results, but it is possible that expectations were results of gambler’s fallacy, assuming that a run of negative scores made positive-scoring animals more likely to appear next

Study 3: designed to provide evidence that the interpretations participants reported were the sole interpretations that came to consciousness as they viewed the ambiguous stimulus
o In addition to reporting whether they had seen a horse or a seal, their eye movements were also measured, in an attempt to discover clues as to how participants had interpreted the figure
• there is evidence which suggests that initial eye movements on presentation of the stimulus are not influenced by conscious processing– whether the first saccade would be to a label marked “farm animal” or “sea creature.”

Study 4: lexical decision task – participants were presented with letter strings and had to decide whether those formed English words
o as a control condition, half of the participants responded to the LDT just before they saw the ambiguous figure rather than just afterward
o if participants responded more quickly to desired-concept words to a greater degree after they view the ambiguous figure, it would suggest that the interpretation participants saw was the one influencing the speed of their lexical decisions

Study 5: designed to reduce suspicions about participants’ possible construction of responses to ensure favorable outcomes
o After being shown ambiguous figure, the experimenter would report that a mistake it been made and that the participant would be assigned to the more favorable condition for the other category of animal.
o Testing the difference between interpretation made at the time they view the figure versus the time they had to report what they saw
• If they saw both interpretations and just reported the one that was desired when experimenter as for their report, they should more likely report the figure that ran counter to their desires at the time that the viewed the figure.

Discussion / Takeaway
• Converging evidence was provided to suggest that participants' desires, hopes, fears, or wishful thinking led them to perceive a representation of the visual environment they desired

• A desire to see one stimulus over the other led to the formation of a perceptual set that included features and concepts related to the desired stimulus over the undesired one

• Top-down influences on perception inspired by motivation can be quite diffuse and nonspecific: when disambiguating ambiguous figure, people do not need concrete features specified a priori.


Thin-Slicing Divorce – Mason, Sbarra, Mehl

Evaluation of the accuracy with which people perceive the psychological adjustment of recently separated adults using small amounts, or thin slices of information

Interpersonal exchanges hinge on accurate perceptions of others' psychological states

The study investigated the degree to which judges accurately perceived recently separated adults' adjustment, either after hearing a 30 second recording of targets discussing the separation experience, or after reading transcriptions of the recordings

Both listening judges and reading judges were positively associated with targets' Impact of Event Scale scores

Only listener-judges were able to predict increases in IES scores three months later

*It was the manner in which participants spoke about their life circumstances, and not verbal content of their speech, the predicted changes in psychological adjustment

*This finding is consistent with previous emotion-perception research

Although people may hear the words others use to explain difficult experiences, data suggests that they listen for the emotion "leaking" through the words


Slepian, Rule, & Ambady 2012:
Proprioception and Personal Perception: Politicians and Professors

• knowledge for a variety of social categories can be influenced by the sensorimotor system
• knowledge of social categories might therefore be partially understood through simulations of sensorimotor states that aid representations of such categories
• sensorimotor states should influence categorization and conversely, social categorization could influence the sensorimotor system
• categories not based primarily in biology would also be susceptible to sensorimotor cues

Conceptual Thought Theory
concrete experiences are drawn upon to aid the comprehension of abstract concepts; properties of the concrete domain are metaphorically mapped onto elements of an abstract domain
o since a concrete bodily sensation can be experienced directly, one does not need to draw on abstract domain for better comprehension
o this predicts that a concrete experience can influence conceptual processing, but that exposure to an abstract concept will not influence sensation

Perceptual Symbol Systems Theory
social categories consist of multimodal states; thinking of a social category consequently leads to a simulation of relevant sensorimotor states

Study 1
• tested context sensitivity in meaning for hard and soft interpersonal traits
• participants were asked to list five adjectives to describe a hard politician, hard scientists, hard teacher, hard parent, and hard business person (other condition described "soft" )
• hard politicians were often described as firm, unyielding and harsh, whereas hard scientists were described as detail oriented, exact, and rigorous.
• Soft politicians are often described as nonassertive, tender and weak, whereas soft sciences were described a subjective unsure and flexible

Studies 2 & 3
• tested whether relationship between personality traits and proprioception influences person perception by providing participants with the experience of hardness and softness
• study 2 – hardness versus softness sensory feedback from object (ball) influenced the perception and categorization of political affiliation—participants squeezing the hardball identified more faces as Republican than Democrat
• study 3 – participants who squeeze the hardball identified more faces as physicists then did participants squeezing the softball

Study 4
• tested Conceptual Thought Theory's unidirectional relationship vs. Perceptual Symbol Systems Theory's bidirectional relationship between proprioception and social categorization
• participants were asked to think about a typical meeting that a Republican or Democrat might have, and then judge how hard or soft of ball was
• participants who thought of Republican perceived the ball as feeling harder
• Thus, thinking about social categories that vary along the hard/soft dimension might lead to simulations of proprioceptive hardness/softness, aiding representations of certain social categories

The meaning of hard and soft personality traits was found to be situated and domain- specific
• although the two social categories examined rely on two distinct metaphors of hard and soft, they both relate to hard and soft proprioception
o experiencing hard proprioception lead male and female faces to be more often categorized as Republicans, and it also led male professors to be more often categorized as physicists than historians

Embodied Cognition
o the same sensation can ground knowledge regarding different social groups by mapping different properties of those sensations on two distinct traits
o social categorization is embodied by means of perceptual symbols, rather than strictly through metaphor
o the current study suggests that person knowledge is itself based in the sensorimotor system, even for novel socially constructed categories
o the processes of impression formation and social categorization are perhaps richer and more intricate than previously recognized…
o *social-categorical knowledge across contexts is, in part, embodied


(Chapter) Everyday Egocentrism and Everyday Interpersonal Problems – Gilovich, Kruger, Savitsky

Because we are the center of our own world, we tend to exaggerate how much we actually do on join tasks
o individuals of a marriage each believe they are completing more of the work due to a egocentric bias –overestimate our inputs and fail to recognize other’s work
• we are only aware of what is occurring in our own lives, not our spouses
• these also easily come to mind
• all others are biased in their claims, but not us = the common belief
o this effect is present in other situations, such as in court, workplace
o can be prevented via learning about the bias, meta-cognition

our normal egocentrism leads us to overestimate the extent to which our appearance/behavior is actually noticed – spotlight effect
o because we occupy much of our attention, we are biased to believe others’ attention also focuses on us
o can lead to the development of phobias and social anxiety

self-as-target bias
• we tend to believe our internal states are more transparent to others than they actually are
o we fail to determine how we appear to others
o examples include standing alone at a party, or public speaking
• worrying about how others will view us here can cause a cyclical effect of worsening the belief


(Chapter) Attributional Processes: An Integration of Social and Clinical Psychology – Bell-Dolan, Anderson

Attributions: the causal explanations that people offer about a variety of intrapersonal and interpersonal events in their lives.

To make an explanation or attribution the person much identify implicitly and/or explicitly the relevant general principles and specific circumstances.

Dimensions of Attributions: Locus, stability, controllability.
• In interpreting an event, perception is not a pure encoding of reality but instead a construction by the perceiver.
o Ambiguous events are likely to be interpreted in terms of the more accessible cognitive category.
• Immediate (spontaneous) attributions are based on three perceptual cues: temporal order, temporal and spatial contiguity, and similarity.
o As well as the individual’s personal beliefs/social theories, which are highly culturally based.

Problem based attributions:
o Sometimes people tire of the attribution process and want to reach an explanation quickly.
o Sometimes people have impression management goals (certain attributions made to maintain a desired impression).
o In problem resolution information is integrated to the best possible attribution and then evaluated if the attribution is satisfying enough or if the cycle needs to be repeated.

Proximal Consequence:
o a person’s immediate or near immediate responses to a specific event and his/her attributions of that event.
o This includes thoughts (success expectancy), feelings, and behaviors.

Academic Achievement:
o if view ability as internal and unstable → maintain a positive mood, motivation, and performance after failure.
o If stable, internal, and uncontrollable → less effective performance after failure.

o For negative events → internal, stable, global
o For positive events → external, unstable, specific.

o globality and stability

Relationship Satisfaction:
o distinct from depression in that it involves other-focused, blaming attributions.

o example: violent husbands blame wife with external and controllable attributions.

o attribution therapy approach has served as the basis for several cognitive therapies for depression, anxiety and marital problems (among others).


(Chapter) The Social Psychology of Clinical Judgement – Garb

Can we educate ourselves to make better snap judgments? Should we make these judgments in a clinical setting?
How do mental health professionals make judgments?

The Primacy Effect:
o accurate dx can be made early in an interview.
o Making judgments quickly saves time and energy and are often correct.

Awareness of Cognitive Processes:
o much of cog processes occur outside conscious awareness.
o It can be difficult for therapists to explain client behavior, and therapists may be unaware of how they are making judgments
• potential risk of stereotypes and prejudices at play

Cognitive Heuristics:
o simple rules for processing lots of information can lead to mistakes.

Affect heuristic:
• “gut instinct” can lead to overconfidence in judgments.

Representativeness heuristic:
• cog judgment if a person is representative of category.

Availability heuristic:
• information that is easily remember has greater impact on judgment.

Confirmatory Hypothesis Testing:
o we seek information that confirm our initial hypothesis.
o We ask more questions that lead to answers which confirm rather than disconfirm our hypotheses
• Reduces the range of alternative hypotheses we explore.

Causal Reasoning:
o clinicians weigh more heavily symptoms that are part of their causal model.

Past Behavior heuristic:
• the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
• But clinicians often falsely remember symptoms patients had

Biases and Errors:
o Confirmatory bias

o Covariation misestimation/illusory correlation:
• the belief two events are correlated when they are not, or less strongly correlated, or the direction is reverse.

Anchoring and adjustment effects:
• example: Pts given higher adjustment scores on unit with less well adjusted pts.

Halo effect:
• salient characteristics inappropriately influence other judgments about characteristics.

Hindsight bias:
• overestimation of the likelihood an event would have been predicted once the outcome is known.

Conjunction effect: ratings the likelihood of A+B greater than each individually.

Social Factors

Client Characteristics:
• Our client’s group membership alters the accuracy

Gender Bias:
• gender stereotypes closely tied to antisocial personality and histrionic personality disorders.

Social Class Bias:
• lower SES less likely to be refer for psychotherapy.

Racial Bias:
• more pervasive, especially with psychotropic medications.
• Black pts at risk for excessive drug administration and treatment that doesn’t meet recommended practices.

Context Effects: Rosenhan 1973.
o If patient self-referred, brought in by family or police, varies likelihood of commitment.
• Implications:
o Clinical experience can be difficult to learn from because we often don’t get direct feedback.
o We need to be aware how our judgments are influenced and always consider alternative hypotheses


Use of Nonconscious Priming to Promote Self-Disclosure – Grecco, Robbins, Bartoli, Wolff

Hypothesized that individual exposed to disclosure primes would write more and include more self-descriptive statements compared to individuals receiving nondisclosure primes

Gave participants a word scrabble, with some participants encountering words associated with disclosure, “open,” “shared,” “communicate,” etc., and others receiving words relating to nondisclosure

Then asked to write responses to questions relating to their emotions for the past 30 days and what they like best about themselves

Group disclosure wrote twice as much as nondisclosure group, and used more feeling-words


Gustatory Disgust Influences Moral Judgement – Eskine, Kacinik, Prinz

Taste perception can affect moral processing

Participants assigned to either a sweet, bitter, or neutral drink and then asked to complete a measurement targeting morality

Those who drank the bitter drink demonstrated harsher judgements than those of the other two groups

Also found that conservatives’ judgements were significantly harsher than liberals


The Role of Apparent Mental Causation in the Overestimation of Personal Influence – Pronin, Wegner, McCarthy, Rodriguez

Hypothesized that belief in magical powers can arise when individuals infer that they have personally caused events on the basis of perceptions of the relation between their thoughts and subsequent events

Study 1
o A confederate is either obnoxious or polite, while the participant is given a voodoo doll and told to place a pin in its face, and later complains of headaches
o Participants claimed responsibility when the player was rude

Study 2
o Confederate player was blinded-folded, but could really see, and the participant was told to direct thoughts of success towards him
o Participants perceived themselves as being the reason the participant succeeded

Study 3
o During a crowded game, participants who were asked to question a player’s contribution to the team believed they had influenced the team’s actual success

Study 4
o Questioned people regarding their team’s loss in the superbowl
o Participants reported feeling responsible for the game’s outcome due to their motivation and display of support, even for the losing team


Learning the Futility of the Thought Suppression Enterprise in Normal Experience and in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Najmi, Reese, Wilhelm, Fama, Back, Wegner

Questioned if individuals could learn from behavioral experiments to alter their faulty beliefs about the control of thoughts?

Ironic reality: attempting to control thoughts leads to a lack of control

Study 1 – nonclinical population
o Participants were asked to report their stream of conscious while trying not to think of a penguin, but to indicate whenever the penguin intruded their thoughts
• Also examined OC symptoms
o those who reported high and low OC symptoms reported learning that suppression does not help suppress ideas, and that doing so decreased obsessions

study 2 – clinical population
o similar setup as first study
o although participants learned that suppression does not work, few reported decreased obsessions after reaching this conclusion
Thought suppression may complicate a range of psychological disorders. This is not to say it initiates the disorders, rather, it may expand their psychological damage, prolong their course, and make them more resistant to treatment.

Thought suppression is characterized as a product of avoidance motivation that has detrimental consequences for psychological functioning and well-being. When thought suppression fails, thoughts escalate to a higher level of frequency because by maintaining vigilance for the unwanted thought, the monitoring system prevents the thought from becoming dormant. Two important characteristics are (1) the ease of return of the suppressed thoughts and (2) the difficulty of escape from suppressed thoughts.

“idée fixe” – a thought that intrudes repeatedly upon consciousness and becomes difficult to control. Avoidance of thoughts may fuel their persistence. Unwanted intrusive thoughts characterize a number of disorders and are typically experiences as ego-dystonic and unacceptable and causing distress.

PTSD: people with PTSD are motivated to suppress trauma-related thoughts as unwanted intrusions of the trauma and avoidance of things associated with the trauma characterize the disorder. Attempted suppression of trauma-related thoughts and their subsequent rebound may exacerbate trauma-related intrusions.

OCD: Repeated attempts at suppression exacerbate already existent obessional states.

Depression: (1) motivated avoidance of depressotypic intrusions cause a rebound of these thoughts. (2) suppression of depressive thoughts may mask a cognitive vulnerability to depression. Depressed individuals are likely to undertake suppression by choosing distracters that are mood congruent (linked to suppression target).

Worry and GAD and Insomnia: worries are ego-syntonic. Yet, when they are unwelcomed may initiate a cycle of self-perpetuating counterproductive control attempts. When insomniacs use thought suppression for worry, their disorder is exacerbated.

Alcohol: the hyperaccessibility of suppressed information may maintain the disorder.

Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITB): rebound of thoughts are less likely when suppression uses a focused distracter. The distracter itself (SITB) may be harmful.

Psychosis: suppression may play a role in maintaining hallucinations.

Mindful-acceptance based techniques encourage exposure to unwanted thoughts and feelings (implying they discourage suppression).