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Social Learning and Social Cognition

Estimated Lesson Time: 3 hours 30 minutes (self-evaluated option) / 5 hours 30 minutes (instructor-evaluated option)

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Lesson Introduction

This chapter is about social cognition, the mental activity that relates to social activities and helps us meet the goal of understanding and predicting the behavior of ourselves and others. A fundamental part of social cognition involves learning—the relatively permanent change in knowledge that is acquired through experience. We will see that a good part of our learning and our judgments of other people operates out of our awareness—we are profoundly affected by things that we do not know are influencing us. But we also consciously think about and analyze our lives and our relationships with others, seeking out the best ways to fulfill our goals and aspirations.

Lesson To Do List

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Lesson Resources

Lesson Presentation (00:14:28)

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Lesson Videos

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Bobo Doll Experiment ()

Lesson Key Points

Human beings respond to the social challenges they face by relying on their substantial cognitive capacities.
Our knowledge about and our responses to social events are developed and determined by operant learning, associational learning, and observational learning.
One outcome of our experiences is the development of mental representations about our environments—schemas and attitudes. Once they have developed, our schemas influence our subsequent learning, such that the new people and situations that we encounter are interpreted and understood in terms of our existing knowledge.
Accommodation occurs when existing schemas change on the basis of new information. Assimilation occurs when our knowledge acts to influence new information in a way that makes the conflicting information fit with our existing schemas.
Because our expectations influence our attention and responses to, and our memory for, new information, often in a way that leads our expectations to be maintained, assimilation is generally more likely than accommodation.
Schemas serve as energy savers. We are particularly likely to use them when we are tired or when the situation that we must analyze is complex.
We use our schemas and attitudes to help us judge and respond to others. In many cases, this is appropriate, but our expectations can also lead to biases in our judgments of ourselves and others.
A good part of our social cognition is spontaneous or automatic, operating without much thought or effort. On the other hand, when we have the time and the motivation to think about things carefully, we may engage in thoughtful, controlled cognition.
Which expectations we use to judge others is based on both the situational salience of the things we are judging and the cognitive accessibility of our own schemas and attitudes.
Variations in the accessibility of schemas lead to biases such as the availability heuristic, the representativeness heuristic, the false consensus bias, and biases caused by counterfactual thinking.
The potential biases that are the result of everyday social cognition can have important consequences, both for us in our everyday lives but even for people who make important decisions affecting many other people. Although biases are common, they are not impossible to control, and psychologists and other scientists are working to help people make better decisions.
The operation of cognitive biases, including the potential for new information to distort information already in memory, can help explain the tendency for eyewitnesses to be overconfident and frequently inaccurate in their recollections of what occurred at crime scenes.

Lesson Terms and Definitions

To Do: Match the correct terms with the definition.

Learning by observing the behavior of others.
Anchor on the initial construct and not adjust sufficiently.
The tendency to overestimate the extent to which other people are similar to us.
A technique in which information is temporarily brought into memory through exposure to situational events.
The tendency for people to favor information that confirms their expectations, regardless of whether the information is true.
The principle that we learn new information as a result of the consequences of our behavior.
The part of the brain that lies in front of the motor areas of the cortex and that helps us remember the characteristics and actions of other people, plan complex social behaviors, and coordinate our behaviors with those of others.
When existing schemas change on the basis of new information.
A process that occurs when our expectations about others lead us to behave toward those others in ways that make those expectations come true.
The ease with which we can process information in our environments.
Occurs when an object or event comes to be associated with a natural response, such as an automatic behavior or a positive or negative emotion.
The relatively permanent change in knowledge that is acquired through experience.
The tendency to make judgments of the frequency of an event, or the likelihood that an event will occur, on the basis of the ease with which the event can be retrieved from memory.
The mental activity that relates to social activities and helps us meet the goal of understanding and predicting the behavior of ourselves and others.
Refers to thinking that occurs out of our awareness, quickly, and without taking much effort.
Basing our judgments on information that seems to represent, or match, what we expect will happen while ignoring more informative base-rate information.
The ability to connect stimuli (the changes that occur in the environment) with responses (behaviors or other actions).
The likelihood that events occur across a large population.
Information-processing rules of thumb that enable us to think in ways that are quick and easy but that may sometimes lead to error.
A process in which our existing knowledge influences new conflicting information to better fit with our existing knowledge, thus reducing the likelihood of schema change.
The tendency to think about events according to what might have been.

Lesson Discussion Questions

Why would we have evolved to process information in such a way that sometimes leads to errors in judgement and reasoning?
Provide an example of how you learned something using both operant learning and classical conditioning.
How is operant learning applied to social psychology?
How is associational learning used in marketing? Provide an example.
What are the conditions in which associational learning is most effective?
How is associational learning connected to prejudice?
Use an example to explain the difference between accommodation and assimilation when referring to schemas.
How does the fact that we tend to remember information that confirm our existing beliefs better than information that challenges them, play into stereotype maintenance?
Provide an example of how a self-fulfilling prophecy can cause us to see a person in way that most other people do not.
Describe when you use automatic cognition and when you use controlled cognition by referencing specific examples from your daily life.
A fair coin flips 5 times in a row. Each time heads comes up. What are the chances that the next flip will result in heads? Why?
Why do you think people are more likely to fear flying than driving, even though flying (commercially) is significantly safer?
Give an example of a time when you used counterfactual thinking to (perhaps subconsciously) make yourself feel better.
Why would a bronze medal winner be statistically more likely to be happier than a silver metal winner?
Why is "4 for a dollar" usually more effective than selling products for .25 each?
Why do you think so many people believe in astrology?
What are some ways in which you can reduce the effect that cognitive biases have on you?
Why are "recovered memories" problematic?

Lesson Assignments

Assignment #1Answer one of the following question found in the "Lesson Discussion Questions" section using the discussion section below, and respond to/comment on at least one student's post. Comment on a post that has no comments yet, if possible.
Assignment #2:

This assignment is for students with the instructor-evaluated course option.

Choose any one of the questions in the "Exercises and Critical Thinking" section of chapter 2 and write a one-page paper on it. Use APA formatting, and include at least one scholarly source other than the textbook.

Lesson Quiz

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    From the Course:
    Social Psychology: A College-Level, Online, Professor-Guided Course
    Bo Bennett, PhD

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    Academics : Social Science
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    Lesson Progress

    This lesson is not yet complete. Still left to do: Lesson Presentation, Lesson Videos, Terms and Definitions, Assignments, Quiz


    Lessons greyed out are for enrolled students only.

    #1: Introducing Social Psychology
    #3: Social Affect
    #4: The Self
    #5: Attitudes, Behavior, and Persuasion
    #6: Perceiving Others
    #7: Influencing and Conforming
    #8: Liking and Loving
    #9: Helping and Altruism
    #10: Aggression
    #11: Working Groups: Performance and Decision Making
    #12: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
    #13: Competition and Cooperation in Our Social Worlds
    #14: Course Summary and Final Assignment
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    Lesson Quiz

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    1) This occurs when our knowledge acts to influence new information in a way that makes the conflicting information fit with our existing schemas.
    a) Assimilation
    b) Accomodation
    c) Cognitive Dissonance
    d) Skepticism
    2) A good part of our social cognition is
    a) immediate or instantaneous
    b) slow and requires much effort
    c) spontaneous or automatic
    d) luck
    3) An example of counterfactual thinking is
    a) thinking about wrong answers
    b) thinking about going against the facts
    c) thinking about being an astronaut
    d) thinking what it would be like if we had won the 1.5 billion dollar powerball, when we didn't
    4) An example of the false consensus bias is
    a) telling people 4/5 dentists chew your gum
    b) lying about a consensus
    c) believing more people agree with you than actually do
    d) making up surveys
    5) Eyewitness testimony is very reliable.
    a) true
    b) false
    submitting answers...

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