Chapter 7 Social cognition


This area of research combines cognitive psychology with experimental social psychology, and sees people as machine-like and rational, an assumption which can lead to self-fulfilling studies being carried out (if you're not careful).


The type of experiments often used here can have problems regarding ecological validity. (By the way, don't assume that all laboratory experiments lack ecological validity. Whether you learn a list of words in a laboratory or in your kitchen before you go to the shops, for example, may not make much difference in terms of how your memory works. As usual, you have to think about it before you make this criticism.)


Fixity — we often set up schemas* which are self-perpetuating (stereotypes are a good example: you may well have a stereotype by now of OU tutors being upstanding, erudite and caring — those you may have seen at summer school who do not conform to this schema you probably just ignored).

Nature vs. nurture — work here shows that the environment can affect the "wiring" of the brain, and thus shows that there is an interaction between the two.

*I've noticed a worrying, textbook-led trend whereby "schema" is used as a strange sort of plural** (e.g., I've seen reports called things like "The role of schema in the recall of unusual items"). "Schema" is singular; the plural is either "schemas" ("The role of schemas in the recall...") or, if you've had a classical education, "schemata".

**Technically, it's being used wrongly as an uncountable noun. Nouns fall into two categories: countable (e.g., a report, several reports) and uncountable (e.g., sand — you can't say a sand and several sands). Schema is, of course, a countable noun, since you can count how many schemas you have, and shouldn't be used as though it were uncountable.

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