Psychology 229: Social Cognition

Matthew Lieberman (, Franz 4461c)

Mondays 10:00-12:50

Franz 5461



Mission Statement:  The goal of this course is twofold.  The first goal is to familiarize you with most of the major themes that have been central to social cognition both historically and currently.  To this end, the following nine weeks will each be devoted to one of the areas of research that I believe to be most important to the field of social cognition.  Some of these areas focus on a particular content domain or type of phenomena (stereotyping, attitude change, emotion) while others address concepts that are relevant to all the content areas of social cognition (subjective construal, automaticity, introspection).


The second and perhaps more important goal of this course is to get you to think more carefully about the complexities involved in social cognition and experience more generally.  It is my sincere hope that you will leave this class with more questions than answers.  To this end, I will not be lecturing in class but trying to generate discussion that provokes all of us, myself included, to think more carefully about what it means to study “minds” and “mental processes” as it pertains to social inference processes.  I will at times give spontaneous mini-lectures when certain topics are raised and there is a need for historical or conceptual framing that goes beyond the scope of the readings.  While this will be a discussion-based course, I hope to also provide you with my own relatively integrated view of social cognition.  Regardless of whether you choose to accept or reject different aspects of how I understand social cognition (and you would be foolish to accept all of it, no doubt), I think it is important for you to be exposed to an overall gestalt that hopefully weaves together all the different articles you’ll be reading.


Readings:  There is a lot of reading for this course.  Truthfully, though, I haven’t assigned enough.  It is impossible to give you a thorough understanding of all the issues that have driven the most successfully paradigm shift in the history of social psychology.  I have tried to mix up the readings for each week: some big reviews, some research articles, and magazine and book chapters where appropriate.  We WILL NOT talk about every article each week.  My goal in class discussion is not to make sure that everyone has read every paper.  I have no checklists as we go through discussion.  We are all adults here and we can all do as we please.  Certainly I want people to ask questions about any part of the readings that are confusing (unfortunately some of the best researchers are horrible writers).  I also expect that much of the discussion will focus on the experiments and ideas raised in the papers.  Nevertheless, I will be carefully rereading each article before class to develop my ideas for discussion and I expect each of you to do the same.  Moreover, these are all important articles that you should read in order to be conversant with social cognition.  Don’t read them for class.  Read them because you want to be a psychologist!


Grades:  You must do two things to do well in this class.  First, you must actively and meaningfully participate in class.  This does not mean dominating discussion, bullying others, saying every thought that comes into your head, or criticizing every experiment and idea.  I do, however, expect you to fill the room with half-baked ideas and confusion (and praise for the work you like).  Most great psychologists have turned out to be wrong about the things they are most famous for.  If they can all be famous for things that turned out to be wrong, then none of us should be anxious for saying what feels confused or wrong.  I can almost guarantee the most interesting thing that gets said in our class will be something that everyone initially thinks is ridiculous. (By the way – William James is the one exception to the above.  Everything he said was right.  Any criticisms of William James will result in punishment of biblical proportions.)


The other thing you must do is write a 2 page seed paper before each class (anything more than 1 page and less than 3 full pages is fine).  These must be emailed to me by Sunday at 8pm the night before class.  These seed papers are meant to serve multiple purposes.  They are meant to make sure you’ve done some thinking about the week’s readings before class.  They will also help me steer discussion towards topics of more general interest and decide where clarity is lacking.  Also, while these papers do not replace the need to speak up in class, they will let me know what the less vocal of you are thinking as you read the articles. 


Each seed paper should take 1 of 3 forms.  First you can write a critical review of one or more of the week’s readings (or even on just a part of a reading).  Critical does not mean negative.  To the extent that you do criticize an argument or idea, you should also offer solutions or alternative ways of thinking about the topic to circumvent the problem.  Tearing down theories is easy, while generating your own new developments is really the keys to advancing the field.  You can also write a paper in which you integrate the ideas of several papers and talk about how they relate to one another synergistically.  The papers to be integrated need not be from the same week and you should feel free to write about papers that aren’t on syllabus too (but, those most be integrated with a paper that is on the syllabus and you can’t assume I’ve read non-syllabus papers).


You should also feel free to add questions about the readings or anything you’d like to have discussed at the end of your seed papers.  These add-ons don’t need to be in paragraph format or anything. 



1. Introduction

Wegner, D. M. & Gilbert, D. T. (2000). Social psychology: The science of human experience.  In H. Bless and J. P. Forgas (Eds.), Subjective experience in social cognition and social behavior. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press. pp. 1-8

Markus, H. (1977). Self-schemata and processing information about the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 63-78.

Fiske, A. P. & Haslam, N. (1996). Social cognition is thinking about relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 5, 137-142.

Gilovich, T. (1991).  Seeing what we expect to see: The biased evaluation of ambiguous and inconsistent data.  How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: Free Press. pp. 49-72

Smith, E. R. (1998). Mental representation.  In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology (4th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 391-445.



2. Automatic & Controlled Social Construal

Hastorf, A. H., & Cantril, H. (1954). They saw a game. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49, 129-134.

Ross, L., Lepper, M. R., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: Biased attribution processes in the debriefing paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 880-892.

Griffin, D. W., & Ross, L. (1991).  Subject construal, social inference, and human misunderstanding.  In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 24). San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 319-359

Wegner, D. M., & Bargh, J. A. (1998).  Control and automaticity in social life.  In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Ed.), The handbook of social psychology (4th edition).  446-496.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Prentice, D. A. & Miller, D. T. (1993) Pluralistic ignorance and alcohol use on campus: Some consequences of misperceiving the social norm. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 64, 243-256.

Ford, T. E. & Thompson, E. P. (2000). Preconscious and postconscious processes underlying construct accessibility effects: An extended search model. Personality & Social Psychology Review, 4, 317-336.


3. Self-serving biases

Ross, L., Greene, D., & House, P. (1977). The “false consensus effect”: An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 13, 279-301.

Greenwald, A. G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. American Psychologist, 35, 603-618.

Miller, D. T. (1999). The norm of self-interest. American Psychologist, 54, 1053-1060.

Epley, N., & Dunning, D. (2000). Feeling "holier than thou": Are self-serving assessments produced by errors in self- or social prediction? Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 79, 861-875.

Dunning, D. (in press). The zealous self-affirmer: How and why the self lurks so pervasively behind social judgment.  In S. Spencer & S. Fein (Eds.), Motivated Social Cognition: The 9th Ontario symposium on social cognition. Hillsdale: Earlbaum.  pp. 1-32.

Van Boven, L., Dunning, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2000).  Egocentric empathy gaps between owners and buyers: Misperceptions of the endowment effect. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 79, 66-76.

Taylor, S. E. (1991). Asymmetrical effects of positive and negative events: The mobilization-minimization hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 67-85.

Swann, W. B., &  Schroeder, D. G. (1995). The search for beauty and truth: A framework for understanding reactions to evaluations. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1307-1318.



4. Introspection & Self-focused Attention

Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84, 231-259.

Wicklund, R. A. (1975). Objective self-awareness. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 8). New York: Academic Press. 233-275

Turner, R. H. (1976). The real self: From institution to impulse. American Journal of Sociology, 81, 989-1016.

Vallacher & Wegner (1987). What do people think they’re doing? Action identification and human behavior. Psychological Review, 94, 3-15.

Baumeister, R. F. (1984). Choking under pressure: Self-consciousness and paradoxical effects of incentives on skillful performance. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 46, 610-620.

Baumeister, R. F. (1990). Anxiety and deconstruction: On escaping the self. In J. M. Olson & M.  P. Zanna, (Eds.), Self-inference processes: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 6). Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum. pp. 259-291.

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H. & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 211-222

Wegner, D. M., Ansfield, M., & Pilloff, D. (1998). The putt and the pendulum: Ironic effects of the mental control of action. Psychological Science, 9, 196-199.

5. Understanding other people

Gladwell, M. (2000). The new-boy network: What do job interviews really tell us? New Yorker, May 29, 68-86.

Gilbert, D. T. (1995). Attribution and interpersonal perception. In A. Tesser (Ed.), Advanced Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 99-147.

Trope, Y. & Liberman, A. (1996). Social hypothesis testing: Cognitive and motivational mechanisms. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles. New York: Guilford Press. pp. 239-270.

Trope, Y. & Gaunt, R. (2000). Processing alternative explanations of behavior: Correction or integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 344-354.

Malle, B. F., & Knobe, J. (1997). The folk concept of intentionality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 101-121.

Swann, W. B. (1984). Quest for accuracy in person perception: A matter of pragmatics. Psychological Review, 91, 457-477.

Buber, M. (1937). I and thou.  New York: Scribners & Sons. pp. 53-85



6. Stereotyping & Implicit Attitudes

Devine, P. G. (1995). Prejudice and out-group perception. In A. Tesser (Ed.), Advanced Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 467-512.

Macrae, C. N. & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2000). Social cognition: Thinking categorically about others. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 93-120.

Bargh, J. A. (1999). The cognitive monster: The case against controllability of automatic stereotype effects. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual-process theories in social psychology. New York: Guilford Press. pp. 361-382.

Dijksterhuis, A. & Knippenberg, A. (2000). Behavioral indecision: Effects of self-focus on automatic behavior. Social Cognition, 18, 55-74.

Dijksterhuis, A., Spears, R., Postmes, T., Stapel, D., Koomen, W., Knippenberg, Ad., & Scheepers, D. (1998). Seeing one thing and doing another: Contrast effects in automatic behavior. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 75, 862-871.

Spalding, L. R. & Hardin, C. R. (1999). Unconscious unease and self-handicapping: Behavioral consequences of individual differences in implicit and explicit self-esteem.  Psychological Science, 10, 535-539.

Robinson, R. J., Keltner, D., Ward, A., & Ross, L.  (1995). Actual versus assumed differences in construal: "Naive realism" in intergroup perception and conflict. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 68, 404-417.




7.  Attitude Change & Belief

Cooper, J. & Fazio, R. H. (1984). A new look at dissonance theory.(In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 17, pp. 229—266). New York: Academic Press.)

Lieberman, M. D., Ochsner, K. N., Gilbert, D. T., & Schacter, D. L. (in press).  Do amnesics exhibit cognitive dissonance reduction?  The role of explicit memory and attention in attitude change. Psychological Science.

Shultz, T. R. & Lepper, M. R. Cognitive dissonance reduction as constraint satisfaction. Psychological Review, 103, 219-240.

Wilson, T. D., Lindsey, S., & Schooler, T. Y. (2000). A model of dual attitudes. Psychological Review, 107, 101-126.

Gilbert, D. T. (1991). How mental systems believe. American Psychologist, 46, 107-119.

Petty, R. A., & Wegener, D. T. (1999). The elaboration likelihood model: Current status and controversies. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual-process theories in social psychology. New York: Guilford Press. pp. 41-72.



8. Judgment & Decision Making

Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (1984). Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 39, 341-350.

Hawkins, S. A. & Hastie, R. (1990). Hindsight: Biased judgments of past events after the outcomes are known. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 311-327.

Ross, M. (1989). The relation of implicit theories to the construction of personal histories. Psychological Review, 96, 341-357.

Liberman, N. & Trope, Y. (1998).  The role of feasibility and desirability considerations in near and distant future decisions: A test of temporal construal theory. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 75, 5-18.

Kahnmen, D. (2000). Experienced utility and objective happiness: A moment-based approach.  In D. Kahneman & A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, values, and frames. New York: Cambridge University Press.  pp. 673-708.

Gilbert, D. T. & Wilson, T. D. (2000). Miswanting: Some problems in the forecasting of future affective states. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Feeling and thinking: The role of affect in social cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press pp. 178-197



9. Emotion

Fridja, N. H. (1986). Emotional experience. In The emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 176-259.

Forgas, J. P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The affect infusion model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin, 117, 39-66.

Scherer, K. R. (1994). Emotion serves to decouple stimulus and response.  In P. Ekman & R. J. Davidson (Eds.), The nature of emotion: fundamental questions. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 127-130.

Shweder, R. A. (1994). “You’re not sick, you’re just in love”: Emotion as an interpretive system. In P. Ekman & R. J. Davidson (Eds.), The nature of emotion: fundamental questions. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 32-43.

Pinker, S. (1997). The doomsday machine. In How the mind works.  New York: Norton. pp. 407-416

Loewenstein, G. F., Weber, E. U., Hsee, C. K., & Welch, N. (2001).  Risk as feelings. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 267-286.

Richards, J. M. & Gross, J. J. (2000). Emotion regulation and memory: The cognitive costs of keeping one's cool. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 79, 410-424.

Dimberg, U., Thunberg, M. & Elmehed, K. (2000). Unconscious facial reactions to emotional facial expressions. Psychological Science, 11, 86-89.


10. Motivation

Shah, J. & Higgins, E. T. (1997). Expectancy * value effects: Regulatory focus as determinant of magnitude and direction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 447-458.

Carver, C. S. & White, T. L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 319-333.

Bargh, J. A. & Ferguson, M. J. (2000). Beyond behaviorism: On the automaticity of higher mental processes. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 925-945.

Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493-503.

Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480-489.

Kruglanski, A. W. & Webster, D. M. (1996). Motivated closing of the mind: "Seizing" and "freezing." Psychological Review, 103, 263-283.

Hong, Y., Chiu, C., Dweck, C. S., Lin, D. M., & Wan, W. (1999). Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: A meaning system approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 588-599.