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Article

Attributing Inferred Causes and Explanations to Behavior  

Gordon B. Moskowitz, Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, and Alexandra Sackett

Behavior is a reflection of the intentions, attitudes, goals, beliefs, and desires of a person. These intra-individual factors are coordinated with what opportunities the situation affords and the perceived constraints placed on the person by their context and the norms of the culture they are in. Further, the intentions, attitudes, goals, beliefs, and desires of a person are often not known to them in any given moment, and because they reside within the mind of that person they are almost always not known to the people who are perceiving that person. To know anything about other people we must observe and identify/classify their behavior and then attribute to the observed behavior inferences and judgments about the internal states of that person serving as the motivating force behind their behavior. This entry explores this process of attribution. Heider described attribution as the process that determines “how one person thinks and feels about another person, how he perceives him and what he does to him, what he expects him to do or think, how he reacts to the actions of the other.” The entry explores the rules that people follow in order to make sense of behavior, and the rational versus non-rational nature of the procedure. Even when highly motivated to think rationally, this process can be biased, and flaws can appear in the attribution process, such as from chronic differences among perceivers due to culture, experience, or personality. How the process would unfold if accurate and purely rational is contrasted with how it unfolds when biased. How we feel, and how we choose to act, are derived from how we make sense of the world. Thus, attribution processes are foundational for understanding how we feel, for establishing expectations, and planning how to act in turn.

Article

Judgment and Decision Making  

Priscila G. Brust-Renck, Rebecca B. Weldon, and Valerie F. Reyna

Everyday life is comprised of a series of decisions, from choosing what to wear to deciding what major to declare in college and whom to share a life with. Modern era economic theories were first brought into psychology in the 1950s and 1960s by Ward Edwards and Herbert Simon. Simon suggested that individuals do not always choose the best alternative among the options because they are bounded by cognitive limitations (e.g., memory). People who choose the good-enough option “satisfice” rather than optimize, because they are bounded by their limited time, knowledge, and computational capacity. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky were among those who took the next step by demonstrating that individuals are not only limited but are inconsistent in their preferences, and hence irrational. Describing a series of biases and fallacies, they elaborated intuitive strategies (i.e., heuristics) that people tend to use when faced with difficult questions (e.g., “What proportion of long-distance relationships break up within a year?”) by answering based on simpler, similar questions (e.g., “Do instances of swift breakups of long-distance relationships come readily to mind?”). More recently, the emotion-versus-reason debate has been incorporated into the field as an approach to how judgments can be governed by two fundamentally different processes, such as intuition (or affect) and reasoning (or deliberation). A series of dual-process approaches by Seymour Epstein, George Lowenstein, Elke Weber, Paul Slovic, and Ellen Peters, among others, attempt to explain how a decision based on emotional and/or impulsive judgments (i.e., system 1) should be distinguished from those that are based on a slow process that is governed by rules of reasoning (i.e., system 2). Valerie Reyna and Charles Brainerd and other scholars take a different approach to dual processes and propose a theory—fuzzy-trace theory—that incorporates many of the prior theoretical elements but also introduces the novel concept of gist mental representations of information (i.e., essential meaning) shaped by culture and experience. Adding to processes of emotion or reward sensitivity and reasoning or deliberation, fuzzy-trace theory characterizes gist as insightful intuition (as opposed to crude system 1 intuition) and contrasts it with verbatim or precise processing that does not consist of meaningful interpretation. Some of these new perspectives explain classic paradoxes and predict new effects that allow us to better understand human judgment and decision making. More recent contributions to the field include research in neuroscience, in particular from neuroeconomics.

Article

Judgment and Decision-Making Processes  

Richard P. Larrick and M. Asher Lawson

The field of judgment and decision making (JDM) arose in psychology to test the rational assumptions posed in other fields such as economics and statistics. This has led to three major contributions of the field. First, to the extent that people systematically deviate from rational models, their decisions are less than optimal. This has consequences for both business practice and for assumptions in many professional fields, such as finance, medicine, and law. Second, the deviation from rational models has led JDM researchers to identify categories of psychological processes that do guide decision making. These include associationistic memory processes, psychophysical processes, emotional processes, and learning. Third, building on the first two contributions, the field of JDM has merged rational and psychological perspectives to explore ways to improve decision making. These methods include a variety of interventions known as nudges, choice architecture, debiasing, and the use of external aids such as algorithms and the wisdom of crowds. The three contributions of JDM help researchers in a number of fields analyze problems and design helpful solutions. Workplace examples include designing better processes for hiring and evaluation, goal setting, and employee retirement savings planning.

Article

Gender Differences in Moral Judgment and Behavior  

John C. Gibbs

Males and females differ—but only moderately—in moral judgment and morally relevant social behavior such as caring for others and aggression. Females more frequently use care-related concerns in their moral judgment. Research has to some extent supported traditional stereotypes of males as more assertive or independent (agency) and females as more relational or affiliative (communion). Males are on average more aggressive than females even after relational aggression is taken into account. In the expression of empathy and prosocial behavior, situational context plays a larger role for males than females. Males’ gender tendencies have been characterized as instrumental (“report talk,” object oriented, etc.) and females’ as socially and emotionally expressive (“rapport talk,” people oriented, etc.). In social relationships, adolescent girls generally engage in more intimate self-disclosure and active listening, provide more emotional support to one another, and emphasize affiliation and collaboration. Both biological and social experiential or cultural factors are involved in the formation of these morally relevant gender differences. Although average gender-linked differences in emphasis remain evident, a blend of instrumental and expressive characteristics may contribute to optimal morality for both genders. Sandra Bem termed the mixture of expressive (traditionally feminine) and instrumental (traditionally masculine) attributes in gender style “androgyny.” Highly androgynous adolescents and adults of both genders evidence more mature moral judgment and more adequate mental health.

Article

Development of Judgment, Decision Making, and Rationality  

Maggie Toplak and Jala Rizeq

There is a long tradition of studying children’s reasoning and thinking in cognitive development and education. The initial studies in the cognitive development of reasoning were motivated by Piagetian models, and developmental age was thought to bring the gradual onset of logical thinking. The introduction of heuristics and biases tasks in adults and dual process models have provided new perspectives for understanding the development of reasoning, judgment, and decision-making skills. These heuristics and biases tasks provided a way to operationalize the systematic errors that people make in their judgments. Dual process models have advanced our understanding of the basic processes implicated in both optimal and non-optimal responders on several types of paradigms, including heuristics and biases tasks and classic reasoning paradigms. Importantly, these skills and competencies are generally separable from the types of higher cognition assessed on measures of intelligence and executive function task performance. Given the history of the study of reasoning in cognitive development, there is a need to integrate our understanding across these somewhat separate literatures. This is especially true given the opposite predictions that seem to be suggested in these different research traditions. Specifically, there is a focus on increasing logical development in the classic cognitive developmental literature and alternatively, there has been a focus on systematic errors in judgment and decision-making in the study of reasoning in adults. This article provides an integration of the two aforementioned perspectives that are rooted in different empirical and historical traditions. These considerations are addressed by drawing upon their research traditions and by summarizing more recent developmental work that has investigated these paradigms.

Article

Psychology and Oppression  

Wahbie Long

Psychology has always been a discipline immersed in the social and political currents of the day. At the level of psychological theory—whether one considers early pioneers such as Freud, Skinner, and Rogers, or, more recently, Seligman and the neuroscientific turn—its affinity with dominant socio-political concerns is easily demonstrated. Far from such individuals being calculating ideologues, however, they were interpellated—inevitably—by a field of power in which their personal and working lives were already embedded. On the other hand, it is equally true that Psychology’s phenomenal growth in the 20th century was built—most deliberately—on the alliances it formed with powerful bureaucratic elites. The discipline’s proximity to power, that is, meant not only that it could be co-opted ideologically but also that it would collude with oppressive regimes to enhance its own prestige. Project CAMELOT is one example where psychologists were willing to cooperate with the U.S. military in the service of a foreign policy that terrorized Latin America. The discipline also thrived under the Nazis with psychologists heavily involved in meeting the operational requirements of the Wehrmacht. Afrikaner psychologists in South Africa formed a close association with the apartheid state in both ideological and practical terms. More recently, the involvement of the American Psychological Association in a torture scandal has drawn attention once again to the discipline’s potential for collusion with institutional powers. In historiographic terms, some will take issue with the delivery of moral judgments when documenting the history of Psychology. However, the writing of history does not preclude such judgments, especially at a time when the exercise of power permeates disciplinary, institutional, and social life.