Attributions, Perceptions, and Impressions by Abu Sales (Staccato)

21 Mar

We all live in a world full of people. We engage with different people everyday and social cognition, an area of social psychology involves how people select, interpret, remember, and use social information.

It’s in human nature to be curious and seek answers. We tend to figure out why thing happen even when, most of the time, we are not really part of it or concerned with it. This can be explained by the attribution theory, which Santrock defined as a theory which views people as motivated to discover the underlying causes of behavior as part of their effort to make sense of the behavior. Attribution theorists say people are, in a way, a lot like detectives or scientists, seeking the reasons for human actions.

Attribution has some common errors and biases. This is what we call fundamental attribution error. As the book discussed, observers overestimate the importance of internal traits and underestimates the importance of external situations when they seek explanations of an actor’s behavior. An example of which is when a student can’t submit projects on time. The student, as the actor, will say that he can’t submit it on time because people kept asking him about other things, but the teacher, as the observer, would say that the student is late because he can’t choose his priorities well.

Self-serving bias is one of the common problems in attribution. We tend to be overly positive about our own behavior, characteristics, and beliefs. This emerges when our self-esteem is threatened. We often attribute our success to internal factors and failures to external.

We not only make attributions to the world, but also social perceptions. We make impressions about other people and the environment; we gain knowledge by comparison, and present ourselves in such a way that we want people to perceive us.

Impressions also play a big part in our lives. The first time we see someone, we tend to make impressions about him/her immediately. So if you want to make a good impression, make sure that you put your best foot forward when meeting someone for the first time.

I know that all of us are guilty of comparing ourselves to others. We do social comparison, the process by which individuals evaluate their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and abilities in relation to other people, to gain self-knowledge from our own behavior. In doing this, it helps us evaluate ourselves, know our distinct characteristics, and helps us in building an identity.

Every time we form impressions about others, simultaneously, others form impressions of us. Two aspects of presenting ourselves to others are Impression Management and Self-Monitoring. Impression Management involves acting in a way that will present an image of you to others as a certain sort of person, which might or might not be who you really are, says Santrock. Nonverbal cues also play an important part in forming impressions. As indicated in the book, certain facial expressions, patterns of eye contact, and body postures or movements are part of the reason we are liked or disliked. Self-Monitoring, on the other hand, is paying attention to the impressions you make on others and the degree to which you fine-tune your performance to optimize the impressions you make. People who practice self-monitoring invest a big amount of time in trying to understand others that they spend too much energy on it and reduce the amount of energy in trying to understand themselves.

We cannot control people around us. All we need to do is be ourselves and it’s up to people what they think of us. Sure, some might not like us, but at least, we don’t fool people like others do. As one quote by Andre Gide go, “It’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for something you’re not.”




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