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Cognitive Schemas: Efficiency or Miserliness?

by: Julia Caine

Cognitive Schemas: Efficiency or Miserliness? Soc 201

Marketplace > New York University > Sociology > Soc 201 > Cognitive Schemas Efficiency or Miserliness
Julia Caine
GPA 3.5

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About this Document

These notes cover the second half of the cognitive schema lecture, where we discuss different studies to see if we use schemas because we are lazy or efficient
Social Psychology
Blaine Robbins
Class Notes
Schema, cognitive, sociology, Psychology
25 ?




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Julia Caine on Thursday September 29, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Soc 201 at New York University taught by Blaine Robbins in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 2 views. For similar materials see Social Psychology in Sociology at New York University.


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Date Created: 09/29/16
Cognitive Schemas: Efficiency or Miserliness?  Principles of Limited Capacity and Least Effort o Why do we rely on schemas to make inferences? Why are we not always “accuracy seekers”? o Reason One: Principle of Limited Capacity  We only have to ability to process a subset of the total amount of stimuli in the world  Due to cognitive load o A state where so much mental effort has been allocated to a cognitive task that it taxes mental resources, diminishing the ability to process information relating to other cognitive tasks o Often deals with multitasking and time crunches o Kruglanski and Freund (1983)  Participants were teachers in Israel  Told to evaluate a student’s response o All groups given identical answer o Given either 10 or 60 minutes o Told the response was either given by an Ashkenazi Jew (considered to be intellectually superior) or Sephardi Jew (considered to be intellectually inferior)  Results  10 minute groups rated the Ashkenazi above the Sephardi o Under cognitive load, they relied on their schemas  60 minute groups rated the papers equally o Reason Two: Principle of Least Effort  We seek to optimize our outcomes with the least amount of cognitive work possible  Basically satisficing  Using schemas and heuristics  Poses two questions  Do we rely on principle of least effort because we’re lazy? o Cognitive misers  Or is it our adaptive response to limited cognitive capacity that promotes survival by providing needed information quickly and efficiently?  Cognitive Miserliness of Cognitive Efficiency? o Chaiken (1980)  Wanted to explore schemas  Rather than exert effort to evaluate a message from an attractive person, we instead rely on schemas related to attractive people  Called the halo effect  Undergrads brought in to discuss a topic  Manipulation one  Receive message from likable or unlikable person o Worked with undergrads, so to make the person likable they had them give a statement saying they loved working with undergrads, unlikable said they disliked it  Manipulation two  Quality of message o Changed the number of arguments  Manipulation three  Level of involvement o Some told they would need to discuss this topic later, others told they wouldn’t  Results  Low involvement subjects relied on likability of messenger to shape their opinion o Not affected by quality of argument o Darley and Gross (1983)  Manipulation one  Groups watched video of little girl playing (Hannah) o Half saw Hannah play in affluent neighborhood o Other half saw her play in a poor neighborhood  Half of each group saw Hannah taking a test o The other halves saw nothing  Participants were asked to rate Hannah’s cognitive abilities o People that saw Hannah take the test rated her more highly if they saw her play in a rich neighborhood versus a poor one o People that didn’t see the test rated Hannah equally o Do these experiments support cognitive miserliness?  May be efficient instead  Using schemas saves resources that can be used on other tasks o Macrae, Milne, and Bodenhausen (1994)  Participants had to do two tasks simultaneously  Watch monitor for 10 traits for a person and form an impression o Half were given a category label- i.e., priest, doctor- and half were only given traits  Half of the traits for each person fit the schema of their label, the other half went against it  Listen to a recording of facts about Indonesia  After tasks, participants were asked questions about Indonesia and had to recall traits for each person  Two hypothesis o Category label produce schema-consistent recall o Category label increase performance on second task (listening)  Results  People with category labels recalled more traits and answered more questions correctly about Indonesia o Savings from using schemas could be spent on other tasks o How effective is automatic, unconscious, schematic-based cognitive processing?  Important because we encounter enormous amount of information non-consciously  Can’t pay attention to two things at once o Dyksterhuis (2004)  Participants given information on four hypothetical apartments  12 attributes shown randomly for 4 seconds each  Had separate volunteers come and rank the apartments  2 was best, 4 was worse  Participants rated apartments 1-10  3 conditions  Participants rated immediately after seeing information o Immediate condition  Participants rated after given three minutes to think o Conscious thought condition  Participants rated after performing other mental task for three minutes o Unconscious thought condition  Results  Immediate decision and conscious thought rated poorly compared to ratings that were set  Unconscious thought did much better o Unconscious thinking becomes better through time o Cognitive efficiency suggest that our default response is not to be as accurate or as lazy as possible  Default response is to categorize in least effortful but most efficient way  Conclusions o Schemas organize o Schemas take various forms o Schemas are a source of cognitive bias o Schemas simplify and explain, but also “save”  Not without bias


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