Social Thinking - Novella

Social Thinking - Novella

PAR T T WO ❖ Social Thinking T his book unfolds around its definition of social psychology: the scientific study of how we think about (Part Two), ...

800KB Sizes 0 Downloads 0 Views

Recommend Documents

Preface - Novella
Frank Shuman, Utah State University. Gregory Sinclair, California State University at Hayward. Kenneth Sinclair, Lehigh

Chapter Pedagogy - Novella
According to Morningstar's CEO,. Joe Mansueto, a good portion of that success is a result of the com- pany's focus on de

APPENDIX A: Mathematical Tables - Novella
APPENDIX A: Mathematical Tables. Table A.1: Future value of $1 at the end of t periods = (1 + r)t. Interest Rate. Period

Thinking skills 1 - Social Care Online
May 15, 2000 - De Bono, E. (1991) Teaching Thinking. London: Penguin Books. ..... East Renfrewshire. Ms Mary Hallan ...

CHAPTER 6 Bond Valuation - Novella
Face value of bond h. Inflation rate. PV. Present value r. Interest rate or discount rate t. Number of periods. YTM Yiel

Fundamental Financial Accounting Concepts - Novella
Fundamental financial accounting concepts / Thomas P. Edmonds, Frances M. McNair,. Philip R. Olds ...... Christine Noel,

thinking like a city: grounding social- ecological - University of Idaho
JANE JACOBS, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES (1961) ..... Leopold's land ethic and Jane Jacobs' urbanism as

Historical Thinking and Inquiry in the Social Studies Classroom
Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. ..... Pasture costs us $7.00 for

Santa Maria Novella Congress - Hotel Ambasciatori Firenze
Universal congress room plenary setting up. Adjacient foyer Universal congress room. Cocktail stand set up in the Sweet

Schedule 10 - Social Media Marketing Schedule.indd - Thinking Juice
Registered in England: 5419447. THINKING JUICE LIMITED. Social Media Marketing Schedule. (Schedule 10). Last Updated: 13

PAR T T WO ❖

Social Thinking

T

his book unfolds around its definition of social psychology: the scientific study of how we think about (Part Two), influence (Part Three), and relate to (Part Four) one another. These modules on social thinking examine the interplay between our sense of self and our social worlds, for example, by showing how self-interest colors our social judgments. Succeeding modules explore the amazing and sometimes rather amusing ways we form beliefs about our social worlds. We have quite remarkable powers of intuition (or what social psychologists call automatic information processing), yet in at least a half-dozen ways, our intuition often fails us. Knowing these ways not only beckons us to humility but also can help us sharpen our thinking, keeping it more closely in touch with reality. We will explore the links between attitudes and behaviors: Do our attitudes determine our behaviors? Do our behaviors determine our attitudes? Or does it work both ways? Finally, we will apply these concepts and findings to clinical psychology, by showing where clinical intuition may go astray but also how social psychologists might assist a clinician’s explanation and treatment of depression, loneliness, and anxiety.

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 17

2/19/14 2:30 PM

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 18

2/19/14 2:30 PM

MODULE

3* ❖

Self-Concept: Who Am I?

N

o topic in psychology today is more heavily researched than the self. In 2011, the word self appeared in 21,693 book and article summaries in PsycINFO (the online archive of psychological research)—more than 20 times the number that appeared in 1970. How, and how accurately, do we know ourselves? What determines our self-concept?

w.mh

com/my s e s p 6e

ww

e.

er

h

CENTER OF OUR WORLDS: OUR SENSE AT THE OF SELF

Activity 3.1

You have many ways to complete the sentence “I am _________.” (What five answers might you give?) Taken together, your answers define your self-concept. The most important aspect of yourself is your self. The elements of your self-concept, the specific beliefs by which you define yourself, are your self-schemas (Markus & Wurf, 1987). Schemas are mental templates by which we organize our worlds. Our self-schemas—our perceiving ourselves as athletic, overweight, smart, or whatever—powerfully affect how * Modules 3 to 5 were coauthored by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University. Professor Twenge’s research on social rejection and on generational changes in personality and the self has been published in many articles and books, including Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (2006) and The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (with W. Keith Campbell, 2009).

19

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 19

2/19/14 2:30 PM

20

PART TWO SOCIAL THINKING

we perceive, remember, and evaluate other people and ourselves. If athletics is central to your self-concept (if being an athlete is one of your selfschemas), then you will tend to notice others’ bodies and skills. You will quickly recall sports-related experiences. And you will welcome information that is consistent with your self-schema (Kihlstrom & Cantor, 1984). If your friend’s birthday is close to yours, you’ll be more likely to remember it (Kesebir & Oishi, 2010). The self-schemas that make up our self-concepts help us organize and retrieve our experiences. Our sense of self is central to our lives—so much so that we tend to see ourselves on center stage and to overestimate the extent to which others notice us. Because of this spotlight effect, we intuitively overestimate the extent to which others’ attention is aimed at us. Timothy Lawson (2010) explored the spotlight effect by having college students change into a sweatshirt with “American Eagle” printed on the front before meeting a group of peers. Nearly 40 percent were sure the other students would remember what the shirt said, but only 10 percent actually did. Most observers did not even notice that the students changed sweatshirts after leaving the room for a few minutes. In another experiment, even noticeably embarrassing clothes, such as a T-shirt with singer Barry Manilow on it, provoked only 23 percent of observers to notice—many fewer than the 50 percent estimated by the unfortunate students sporting the 1970’s soft rock warbler on their chests (Gilovich & others, 2000). What’s true of our dorky clothes and bad hair is also true of our emotions: our anxiety, irritation, disgust, deceit, or attraction (Gilovich & others, 1998). Fewer people notice than we presume. Keenly aware of our own emotions, we often have the illusion that they are present to others. The same goes for our social blunders and public mental slips. But research shows that what we agonize over, others may hardly notice and soon forget (Savitsky & others, 2001). The more self-conscious we are, the more we believe this illusion of transparency (Vorauer & Ross, 1999).

S ELF AND CULTURE

How did you complete the “I am _____” statement on page 19? Did you give information about your personal traits, such as “I am honest,” “I am tall,” or “I am outgoing”? Or did you also describe your social identity, such as “I am a Pisces,” “I am a MacDonald,” or “I am a Muslim”? For some people, especially those in industrialized Western cultures, individualism prevails. Identity is self-contained. Adolescence is a time of separating from parents, becoming self-reliant, and defining one’s personal, independent self. One’s identity—as a unique individual with particular abilities, traits, values, and dreams—remains fairly constant. The psychology of Western cultures assumes that your life will be enriched by believing in your power of personal control. Western

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 20

2/19/14 2:30 PM

MODULE 3 SELF-CONCEPT: WHO AM I?

21

literature, from The Iliad to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, celebrates the self-reliant individual. Movie plots feature rugged heroes who buck the establishment. Songs proclaim “I Gotta Be Me,” declare that “The Greatest Love of All” is loving oneself (Schoeneman, 1994), and state without irony that “I Believe the World Should Revolve Around Me.” Individualism flourishes when people experience affluence, mobility, urbanism, and mass media (Freeman, 1997; Marshall, 1997; Triandis, 1994). Most cultures native to Asia, Africa, and Central and South America place a greater value on collectivism, by respecting one’s groups and identifying oneself accordingly. They nurture what Shinobu Kitayama and Hazel Markus (1995) call the interdependent self. In these cultures, people are more self-critical and have less need for positive self-regard (Heine & others, 1999). Malaysians, Indians, Koreans, Japanese, and traditional Kenyans such as the Maasai, for example, are much more likely than Australians, Americans, and the British to complete the “I am” statement with their group identities (Kanagawa & others, 2001; Ma & Schoeneman, 1997). When speaking, people using the languages of collectivist countries say “I” less often (Kashima & Kashima, 1998, 2003). A person might say “Went to the movie” rather than “I went to the movie.” Compared with U.S. church websites, Korean church websites place more emphasis on social connections and participation and less on personal spiritual growth and self-betterment (Sasaki & Kim, 2011). Pigeonholing cultures as solely individualist or collectivist oversimplifies, because within any culture individualism varies from person to person (Oyserman & others, 2002a, 2002b). There are individualist Chinese and collectivist Americans, and most of us sometimes behave communally, sometimes individualistically (Bandura, 2004). Individualism–collectivism also varies across a country’s regions and political views. In the United States, Native Hawaiians and people living in the deep South exhibit greater collectivism than do those in Mountain West states such as Oregon and Montana (Plaut & others, 2002; Vandello & Cohen, 1999). Conservatives tend to be economic individualists (“don’t tax or regulate me”) and moral collectivists (“legislate against immorality”). Liberals tend to be economic collectivists (supporting national health care) and moral individualists (“keep your laws off my body”). Despite individual and subcultural variations, researchers continue to regard individualism and collectivism as genuine cultural variables (Schimmack & others, 2005).

Growing Individualism within Cultures Cultures can also change over time, and many seem to be growing more individualistic. New economic opportunities have challenged traditional collectivistic ways in India. Chinese citizens younger than 25 are more likely than those older than 25 to agree with individualistic statements such as “make a name for yourself” and “live a life that suits your tastes”

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 21

2/19/14 2:30 PM

22

PART TWO SOCIAL THINKING

(Arora, 2005). Chinese citizens who are younger, more urban, more affluent, and only children—all modern attributes—are also more likely to endorse self-centered statements (Cai & others, 2011). In the United States, younger generations report significantly more positive self-feelings than young people did in the 1960s and 1970s (Gentile & others, 2010; Twenge & Campbell, 2008; Twenge & others, 2011; but for an opposing view, see Trzesniewski & Donnellan, 2010). One study found that popular song lyrics became more likely to use “I” and “me” and less likely to use “we” and “us” between 1980 and 2007 (DeWall & others, 2011), with the norm shifting from the sappy love song of the 1980s (“Endless Love,” 1981) to the self-celebration of the 2000s (Justin Timberlake singlehandedly bringing “Sexy Back,” 2006). Even your name might show the shift toward individualism: American parents are now less likely to give their children common names and more likely to help them stand out with an unusual name. While nearly 20 percent of boys born in 1990 received one of the 10 most common names, only 8 percent received such a common name by 2010, with the numbers similar for girls (Twenge & others, 2010). Today, you don’t have to be the child of a celebrity to get a name as unique as Shiloh, Suri, Knox, or Apple. Americans and Australians, most of whom are descended from those who struck out on their own to emigrate, are more likely than Europeans to give their children uncommon names. Parents in the western United States and Canada, descended from independent pioneers, are also more likely than those in the more established East to give their children uncommon names (Varnum & Kitayama, 2011). The more individualistic the time or the place, the more children receive unique names. These changes demonstrate something that goes deeper than a name: the interaction between individuals and society. Did the culture focus on uniqueness first and cause the parents’ name choices, or did individual parents decide they wanted their children to be unique, thus creating the culture? A similar chicken-and-egg question applies to the song lyrics: Did a more selffocused population listen to more self-focused songs, or did listening to more self-focused songs make people more self-focused? The answer, though not yet fully understood, is probably both (Markus & Kitayama, 2010). If you grew up in a Western culture, you were probably told to “express yourself”—through writing, the choices you make, the products you buy, and perhaps through your tattoos or piercings. When asked about the purpose of language, American students were more likely to explain that it allows self-expression, whereas Korean students focused on how language allows communication with others. American students were also more likely to see their choices as expressions of themselves and to evaluate their personal choices more favorably (Kim & Sherman, 2007). The individualized latté—“decaf, single shot, skinny, extra hot”—that seems just right at a North American coffee shop would seem strange in Seoul, note Kim and Hazel Markus (1999). In Korea, people place less value on expressing their uniqueness and more on tradition and shared practices

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 22

2/19/14 2:30 PM

23

MODULE 3 SELF-CONCEPT: WHO AM I?

Mother

Father Mother

Father Sibling

Self

Self Sibling

Friend

Friend

Co-worker Friend

Friend Co-worker

Independent view of self

Interdependent view of self

w.mh

com/my s e s p 6e

ww

e.

er

h

FIGURE 3-1 Self-construal as independent or interdependent. The independent self acknowledges relationships with others. But the interdependent self is more deeply embedded in others (Markus & Kitayama, 1991).

Activity 3.1

(Choi & Choi, 2002). Korean advertisements tend to feature people together, whereas American advertisements highlight personal choice or freedom (Markus, 2001; Morling & Lamoreaux, 2008). With an interdependent self, one has a greater sense of belonging. If they were uprooted and cut off from family, colleagues, and loyal friends, interdependent people would lose the social connections that define who they are. When Chinese participants were asked to think about their mothers, a brain region associated with the self became activated—an area that lit up for Western participants only when they thought about themselves (Zhu & others, 2007). Interdependent selves have not one self but many selves: self-with-parents, self-at-work, self-with-friends (Cross & others, 1992). As Figure 3-1 and Table 3-1 suggest, the interdependent self is embedded in social memberships. Conversation is less direct and

TABLE 3-1 SELF-CONCEPT: INDEPENDENT OR INTERDEPENDENT

Identity is What matters

Disapproves of Illustrative motto Cultures that support

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 23

Independent

Interdependent

Personal, defined by individual traits and goals Me—personal achievement and fulfillment; my rights and liberties Conformity “To thine own self be true” Individualistic Western

Social, defined by connections with others We—group goals and solidarity; our social responsibilities and relationships Egotism “No one is an island” Collectivistic Asian and Third World

2/19/14 2:30 PM

24

PART TWO SOCIAL THINKING

more polite (Holtgraves, 1997), and people focus more on gaining social approval (Lalwani & others, 2006). In an interdependent culture, the goal of social life is to harmonize with and support one’s communities, not—as it is in more individualistic societies—to enhance one’s individual self and make choices independently.

Culture and Self-Esteem Self-esteem in collectivist cultures correlates closely with “what others think of me and my group.” Self-concept in these cultures is malleable (context-specific) rather than stable (enduring across situations). In one study, four in five Canadian students but only one in three Chinese and Japanese students agreed that “the beliefs that you hold about who you are (your inner self) remain the same across different activity domains” (Tafarodi & others, 2004). For those in individualistic cultures, self-esteem is more personal and less relational. Threaten our personal identity and we’ll feel angrier and gloomier than when someone threatens our collective identity (Gaertner & others, 1999). So when, do you suppose, are university students in collectivist Japan and individualist United States most likely to report positive emotions such as happiness and elation? For Japanese students, happiness comes with positive social engagement—with feeling close, friendly, and respectful. For American students, it more often comes with disengaged emotions—with feeling effective, superior, and proud (Kitayama & Markus, 2000). Conflict in collectivist cultures often takes place between groups; individualist cultures breed more conflict (and crime and divorce) between individuals (Triandis, 2000). When Kitayama (1999), after 10 years of teaching and researching in America, visited his Japanese alma mater, Kyoto University, graduate students were “astounded” when he explained the Western idea of the independent self. “I persisted in explaining this Western notion of selfconcept—one that my American students understood intuitively—and finally began to persuade them that, indeed, many Americans do have such a disconnected notion of self. Still, one of them, sighing deeply, said at the end, ‘Could this really be true?’”

S ELF-KNOWLEDGE

“Know thyself,” admonished an ancient Greek oracle. We certainly try. We readily form beliefs about ourselves, and we in Western cultures don’t hesitate to explain why we feel and act as we do. But how well do we actually know ourselves? “There is one thing, and only one in the whole universe which we know more about than we could learn from external observation,” noted

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 24

2/19/14 2:30 PM

MODULE 3 SELF-CONCEPT: WHO AM I?

25

C. S. Lewis (1952, pp. 18–19). “That one thing is [ourselves]. We have, so to speak, inside information; we are in the know.” Indeed. Yet sometimes we think we know, but our inside information is wrong. That is the unavoidable conclusion of some fascinating research.

Explaining Our Behavior Why did you choose where to go to college? Why did you lash out at your roommate? Why did you fall in love with that special person? Sometimes we know. Sometimes we don’t. Asked why we have felt or acted as we have, we produce plausible answers. Yet, when causes are subtle, our selfexplanations are often wrong. We may dismiss factors that matter and inflate others that don’t. People may misattribute their rainy-day gloom to life’s emptiness (Schwarz & Clore, 1983). And people routinely deny being influenced by the media, which, they readily acknowledge, affects others. Also thought provoking are studies in which people have recorded their moods every day for 2 or 3 months (Stone & others, 1985; Weiss & Brown, 1976; Wilson & others, 1982). They also recorded factors that might affect their moods: the day of the week, the weather, the amount they slept, and so forth. At the end of each study, the people judged how much each factor had affected their moods. Even with their attention on their daily moods, there was little relationship between their perceptions of how well a factor predicted their mood and how well it really did. For example, people thought they would experience more negative moods on Mondays, but in fact their moods were no more negative on Mondays than on other weekdays. This raises a disconcerting question: How much insight do we really have into what makes us happy or unhappy? As Daniel Gilbert (2007, 2011) notes, not much: We are remarkably bad predictors of what will make us happy. “We seem to know less about the worlds inside our heads than about the world our heads are inside.”

Predicting Our Behavior People also err when predicting their behavior. Dating couples tend to predict the longevity of their relationships through rose-colored glasses. Their friends and family often know better, report Tara MacDonald and Michael Ross (1997). Among University of Waterloo students, their roommates were better predictors of whether their romances would survive than they were. Medical residents weren’t very good at predicting whether they would do well on a surgical skills exam, but their peers in the program predicted each other’s performance with startling accuracy (Lutsky & others, 1993). So if you’re in love and want to know whether it will last, don’t listen to your heart—ask your roommate. And if you want to predict your routine daily behaviors—how much time you will spend laughing,

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 25

2/19/14 2:30 PM

26

PART TWO SOCIAL THINKING

on the phone, or watching TV, for example—your close friends’ estimates will likely prove at least as accurate as your own (Vazire & Mehl, 2008). One of the most common errors in behavior prediction is underestimating how long it will take to complete a task (called the planning fallacy). The Big Dig freeway construction project in Boston was supposed to take 10 years and actually took 20 years. The Sydney Opera House was supposed to be completed in 6 years; it took 16. In one study, college students writing a senior thesis paper were asked to predict when they would complete the project. On average, students finished 3 weeks later than their “most realistic” estimate—and a week later than their “worstcase scenario” estimate (Buehler & others, 2002). However, friends and teachers were able to predict just how late these papers would be. Just as you should ask your friends how long your relationship is likely to survive, if you want to know when you will finish your term paper, ask your roommate or your mom. You could also do what Microsoft does: Managers automatically add 30 percent onto a software developer’s estimate of completion—and 50 percent if the project involves a new operating system (Dunning, 2006). So, how can you improve your self-predictions? The best way is to be more realistic about how long tasks took in the past. Apparently people underestimate how long something will take because they misremember previous tasks as taking less time than they in fact did (Roy & others, 2005).

Predicting Our Feelings Many of life’s big decisions involve predicting our future feelings. Would marrying this person lead to lifelong contentment? Would entering this profession make for satisfying work? Would going on this vacation produce a happy experience? Or would the likelier results be divorce, job burnout, and holiday disappointment? Sometimes we know how we will feel—if we fail that exam, win that big game, or soothe our tensions with a half-hour jog. We know what exhilarates us and what makes us anxious or bored. Other times we may mispredict our responses. Asked how they would feel if asked sexually harassing questions on a job interview, most women studied by Julie Woodzicka and Marianne LaFrance (2001) said they would feel angry. When actually asked such questions, however, women more often experienced fear. Studies of “affective forecasting” reveal that people have greatest difficulty predicting the intensity and the duration of their future emotions (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003). People have mispredicted how they would feel some time after a romantic breakup, receiving a gift, losing an election, winning a game, and being insulted (Gilbert & Ebert, 2002; Loewenstein & Schkade, 1999). Some examples:

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 26

2/19/14 2:30 PM

MODULE 3 SELF-CONCEPT: WHO AM I?

27

• When young men are sexually aroused by erotic photographs, then exposed to a passionate date scenario in which their date asks them to “stop,” they admit that they might not stop. If not shown sexually arousing pictures first, they more often deny the possibility of being sexually aggressive. When not aroused, one easily mispredicts how one will feel and act when aroused—a phenomenon that leads to unexpected professions of love during lust, to unintended pregnancies, and to repeat offenses among sex abusers who have sincerely vowed “never again.” • Hungry shoppers do more impulse buying (“Those doughnuts would be delicious!”) than do shoppers who have just enjoyed a quarter-pound blueberry muffin (Gilbert & Wilson, 2000). When we are hungry, we mispredict how gross those deep-fried doughnuts will seem when we are sated. When stuffed, we may underestimate how yummy a doughnut might be with a late-night glass of milk—a purchase whose appeal quickly fades when we have eaten one or two. • When natural disasters like hurricanes occur, people predict that their sadness will be greater if more people are killed. But after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, students’ sadness was similar whether it was believed that 50 people had been killed or 1,000 had been killed (Dunn & Ashton-James, 2008). What did influence how sad people felt? Seeing pictures of victims. No wonder poignant images on TV have so much influence on us after disasters. • People overestimate how much their well-being would be affected by both bad events (a romantic breakup, failing to reach an athletic goal [Eastwick & others, 2007a; van Dijk & others, 2008]) and good events (weight loss, more television channels, more free time). Even extreme events, such as winning a state lottery or suffering a paralyzing accident, affect long-term happiness less than most people suppose. Our intuitive theory seems to be: We want. We get. We are happy. If that were true, this chapter would have fewer words. In reality, note Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson (2000), we often “miswant.” People who imagine an idyllic desert island holiday with sun, surf, and sand may be disappointed when they discover “how much they require daily structure, intellectual stimulation, or regular infusions of Pop Tarts.” We think that if our candidate or team wins we will be delighted for a long while. But multiple studies reveal that the emotional traces of such good tidings evaporate more rapidly than we expect. Moreover, we are especially prone to impact bias after negative events. When Gilbert and colleagues (1998) asked assistant professors to predict their happiness a few years after achieving tenure or not, most

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 27

2/19/14 2:30 PM

28

PART TWO SOCIAL THINKING

believed a favorable outcome was important for their future happiness: “Losing my job would crush my life’s ambitions. It would be terrible.” Yet when surveyed several years after the event, those denied tenure were about as happy as those who received it. Impact bias is important, say Wilson and Gilbert (2005), because people’s affective forecasts— their predictions of their future emotions—influence their decisions. If people overestimate the intensity and the duration of the pleasure they will gain from purchasing a new car or undergoing cosmetic surgery, then they may make ill-advised investments in that new Mercedes or extreme makeover. Let’s make this personal. Gilbert and Wilson invite us to imagine how we might feel a year after losing our nondominant hands. Compared with today, how happy would you be? Thinking about that, you perhaps focused on what the calamity would mean: no clapping, no shoe tying, no competitive basketball, no speedy keyboarding. Although you likely would forever regret the loss, your general happiness some time after the event would be influenced by “two things: (a) the event, and (b) everything else” (Gilbert & Wilson, 2000). In focusing on the negative event, we discount the importance of everything else that contributes to happiness and so overpredict our enduring misery. “Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think,” write researchers David Schkade and Daniel Kahneman (1998). Moreover, say Wilson and Gilbert (2003), people neglect the speed and the power of their psychological immune system, which includes their strategies for rationalizing, discounting, forgiving, and limiting emotional trauma. Being largely ignorant of the speed and strength of our psychological immune system (a phenomenon Gilbert and Wilson call immune neglect), we adapt to disabilities, romantic breakups, exam failures, tenure denials, and personal and team defeats more readily than we would expect. Ironically, as Gilbert and colleagues report (2004), major negative events (which activate our psychological defenses) can be less enduringly distressing than minor irritations (which don’t activate our defenses). We are, under most circumstances, amazingly resilient.

The Wisdom and Illusions of Self-Analysis To a striking extent, then, our intuitions are often dead wrong about what has influenced us and what we will feel and do. But let’s not overstate the case. When the causes of our behavior are conspicuous and the correct explanation fits our intuition, our self-perceptions will be accurate (Gavanski & Hoffman, 1987). When the causes of behavior are obvious to an observer, they are usually obvious to us as well.

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 28

2/19/14 2:30 PM

MODULE 3 SELF-CONCEPT: WHO AM I?

29

We are unaware of much that goes on in our minds. Perception and memory studies show that we are more aware of the results of our thinking than of its process. For example, we experience the results of our mind’s unconscious workings when we set a mental clock to record the passage of time or to awaken us at an appointed hour, or when we somehow achieve a spontaneous creative insight after a problem has unconsciously “incubated.” Similarly, creative scientists and artists often cannot report the thought processes that produced their insights, although they have superb knowledge of the results. Timothy Wilson (1985, 2002) offers a bold idea: The mental processes that control our social behavior are distinct from the mental processes through which we explain our behavior. Our rational explanations may therefore omit the unconscious attitudes that actually guide our behavior. In nine experiments, Wilson and colleagues (1989, 2008) found that the attitudes people consciously expressed toward things or people usually predicted their subsequent behavior reasonably well. Their attitude reports became useless, however, if the participants were first asked to analyze their feelings. For example, dating couples’ level of happiness with their relationship accurately predicted whether they would still be dating several months later. But participants who first listed all the reasons they could think of why their relationship was good or bad before rating their happiness were misled—their happiness ratings were useless in predicting the future of the relationship! Apparently, the process of dissecting the relationship drew attention to easily verbalized factors that were actually not as important as harderto-verbalize happiness. We are often “strangers to ourselves,” Wilson concluded (2002). Such findings illustrate that we have a dual attitude system, say Wilson and colleagues (2000). Our automatic implicit attitudes regarding someone or something often differ from our consciously controlled, explicit attitudes (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006; Nosek, 2007). From childhood, for example, we may retain a habitual, automatic fear or dislike of people for whom we now consciously verbalize respect and appreciation. Although explicit attitudes may change with relative ease, notes Wilson, “implicit attitudes, like old habits, change more slowly.” With repeated practice, however, new habitual attitudes can replace old ones. This research on the limits of our self-knowledge has two practical implications. The first is for psychological inquiry. Self-reports are often untrustworthy. Errors in self-understanding limit the scientific usefulness of subjective personal reports. The second implication is for our everyday lives. The sincerity with which people report and interpret their experiences is no guarantee of the validity of those reports. Personal testimonies are powerfully persuasive. But they may also be wrong. Keeping this potential for error in mind can help us feel less intimidated by others and be less gullible.

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 29

2/19/14 2:30 PM

30

PART TWO SOCIAL THINKING

C ONCEPTS TO REMEMBER self-concept What we know and

collectivism Giving priority to the

believe about ourselves. self-schema Beliefs about self that organize and guide the processing of self-relevant information. spotlight effect The belief that others are paying more attention to our appearance and behavior than they really are. individualism The concept of giving priority to one’s own goals over group goals and defining one’s identity in terms of personal attributes rather than group identifications.

goals of one’s groups (often one’s extended family or work group) and defining one’s identity accordingly. planning fallacy The tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task. dual attitude system Differing implicit (automatic) and explicit (consciously controlled) attitudes toward the same object. Verbalized explicit attitudes may change with education and persuasion; implicit attitudes change slowly, with practice that forms new habits.

mye25454_ch03_017-030.indd 30

2/19/14 2:30 PM