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Social Perception and Interpersonal Behavior

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What is in fact Cognitive Social Psychology? Cognitive social psychology is concerned with the processes by which an individual gain knowledge about behavior and events that they encounter in social interaction, and how they use this knowledge to guide their actions. From this perspective, people are “constructive thinkers” searching for the causes of behavior, drawing inferences about people and their circumstances, and acting upon this knowledge. Most empirical work in this domain largely stimulated and guided by the attribution theories has focused on the processing of information. For instance what are the cognitive and behavioral consequences of our impressions of other people? As an example of this is social stereotypes these are special cases of interpersonal perception. Stereotypes are usually simple, over generalized, and widely accepted. But stereotypes are often inaccurate. Nonetheless, many social stereotypes are concern highly visible and distinctive personal characteristics; for example, sex and race. These pieces of information are usually the first to be noticed during social interaction. This reality is, of course, entirely cognitive: It is in the eye and mind of the beholder.

But stereotype-based attributions may serve as grounds for predictions about the target’s future behavior and may guide and influence the perceiver’s interactions with the target. How others treat us is, in large measure, a reflection of our treatment of them. By the same token one widely held stereotype in this culture involves physical attractiveness. Considerable evidence suggests that attractive persons are assumed to possess more socially desirable personality traits and are expected to lead better lives than their unattractive people. Attractive persons are perceived to have virtually every character trait that is socially desirable to the perceiver: “Physically attractive people, for example, were perceived to be more sexually warm and responsive, sensitive, kind, interesting, strong, poised, modest, sociable, and outgoing than persons of lesser physical attractiveness” According to studies the physically attractive are chosen and the unattractive are rejected in social metric choices. Individuals may have different styles of interaction for those whom they perceive to be physically attractive and for those whom they consider unattractive.

As a result in the study in this journal article “Social Perception and Interpersonal Behavior: On the Self-Fulfilling Nature of Social Stereotypes” by Mark Snyder. The Participants used for this study were fifty-one male and fifty-one female undergraduates at the University of Minnesota. They participated, for an extra course credit, in a study of “the processes by which people become acquainted with each other.” Participants were scheduled in pairs of previously unacquainted males and females. Furthermore to insure that the participants would not see each other before their interactions, they arrived at separate experimental rooms on separate corridors. The experimenter informed each participant that she was studying acquaintance processes in social relationships. Specifically, she was investigating the differences between those initial interactions that involve nonverbal communication and those, such as telephone conversations, that do not. She explained that the participant would engage in a telephone conversation with another student in introductory psychology.

Correspondingly before the conversation began, each participant provided written permission for them to be tape recorded. In addition, both participants completed a brief questionnaire concerning information such as academic major in college and high school of graduation. These questionnaires, it was explained, would provide the partners with some information about each other with which to start the conversation. The getting acquainted interaction permitted the control of the information that each male perceiver received about the physical attractiveness of his female target. When male perceivers learned about the biographical information questionnaires, they also learned that each person would receive a snapshot of the other member participating in the study. Consequently no mention of any snapshots was made to the female participants. When each male perceiver received his partner’s biographical information form, it arrived in a folder containing a Polaroid snapshot, of his so called partner. But, although the biographical information had indeed been provided by his partner, the photograph was not.

It was one of eight photographs that had been prepared in advance. Before initiating the getting-acquainted conversation, each male perceiver rated his initial impressions of his partner on an Impression Formation Questionnaire. They were then able to assess the extent to which perceivers’ initial impressions of their partners reflected general stereotypes linking physical attractiveness and personality characteristics. In this case each participant then engaged in a 10-minute unstructured conversation by the means of microphones and headphones connected through a stereophonic tape recorder that recorded each participant’s voice on a separate channel of the tape. After the conversation, male perceivers completed the Impression Formation Questionnaires to record their final impressions of their partners. Aside from the male participants the female targets were told to also indicate, on a 10-point scales, how much they had enjoyed their conversation, how comfortable they had felt while talking to their partner, how accurate a picture of thyself they have felt that their partner had formed as a result of the conversation, how typical their partner’s behavior had been of the way they’d usually be treated by men, and their perception of their own physical attractiveness, and their estimate of their partner’s perception of their physical attractiveness.

To assess the extent to which the actions of the target whom women provided behavioral confirmation for the stereotypes of the men perceivers, 8 male and 4 female introductory psychology students rated the tape recordings of the getting-acquainted conversations. These observer judges were unaware of the experimental hypotheses and knew nothing of the actual or perceived physical attractiveness of the individuals on the tapes. As a result to chart the process of behavioral confirmation of social stereotypes in social interaction, they examined the effects of their manipulation of the target women’s apparent physical attractiveness on the male perceivers’ initial impressions of them and the women’s behavioral self-presentation during the interaction, as measured by the observer judges’ ratings of the tape recordings. Did the male perceivers form initial impressions of their specific target women on the basis of general stereotypes that associate physical attractiveness and desirable personalities?

To answer this question, they examined the male perceivers’ initial ratings on the Impression Formation Questionnaire. Recalling that these impressions were recorded after the perceivers had seen their partners’ photographs, but before the getting-acquainted conversation. Indeed, it appears that the male perceivers did fashion their initial impressions of their female partners on the basis of stereotyped beliefs about physical attractiveness. The perceivers fashion their images of their discussion partners on the basis of their stereotyped intuitions about beauty and goodness of character. In the final analysis I think the study in this journal article “Social Perception and Interpersonal Behavior: On the Self-Fulfilling Nature of Social Stereotypes” by Mark Snyder was a great example of the typical stereotypes that we find today in society. Throughout my life time I have seen that it is a fact that people who are more attractive than the average do tend to be better off and tend to be a little more social. Unlike those who are unattractive and are a little more closed off then most people.

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