The Yin and Yang of Social Cognition



Richard E. Petty, Zakary L. Tormala, & Derek Rucker, Ohio State University
An Attitude Strength Perspective on Resistance to Persuasion
Bill McGuire was a pioneer in pointing out the importance of understanding psychological processes leading to resistance to persuasion as well as to positive attitude change.   This chapter reviews the progress the field has made since McGuire's innovative "inoculation theory," and describes some research taking a new look at the causes and consequences of resistance to persuasion.

Shelly Chaiken, New York University
Reception and Yielding in Social Cognition and Persuasion
A discussion of Bill McGuire's contributions to persuasion theorizing and related areas of attitudes and social cognition.Special emphasis will be placed on Bill's multi-stage "reception-yielding" framework as an antecedent of contemporary dual-process models of social cognition, as well as on his ideas about the contextualization of theorizing (as in all theories are true, under some circumstances anyway).

Reid Hastie & Katherine A. Rawson, University of Colorado
Dynamic Networks and Other Thought Systems
William J. McGuire has outlined a general theory of the structure and operation of thought systems. One example of such a system is the large-scale schemas or theories that people construct to understand complex causal systems. For example, people believe that there are complex, dynamical causal systems that generate the events they read about in the newspaper concerning public events such as political and governmental actions, environmental, and biological processes, and so forth. McGuire's theory explains and predicts the structure of people's beliefs and changes in the constituent beliefs when new relevant information is encountered. Original empirical studies, inspired by McGuire's theory, are reported to illustrate some of the statics and dynamics of these thought systems.


John Cacioppo, University of Chicago
Asymmetries in Affect-Laden Information Processing
The mind does not record it constructs reality.  William McGuire has illuminated numerous mental affinities that render representations of reality that deviate from the objective information from which these representations are drawn. In this paper, we address McGuire’s work on asymmetries in affect-laden information processing.   We review evidence that these affective asymmetries include a positivity offset and a negativity bias, and we demonstrate that the negativity bias can operate as early as the evaluative categorization stage and can occur early and spontaneously.  Theoretical implications are discussed.

Robert S. Wyer, University of Illinois and the University of Hong Kong
The Cognitive Organization and Use of General Knowledge
The paper will review and analyze past and current theory and research that bears on (a) spontaneous reactions to information about familiar people and events that occur at the time the information is received, and (b) information processing that occurs only in the course of subsequent, goal-directed activity. Specific areas of concern might include early and more recent research on the resolution of cognitive inconsistencies, reactions to persuasive communications, comprehension processes, and behavioral decision making. I'll try to integrate traditional research on belief and attitude change and more recent work on social comprehension and verification processes (e.g., Wyer & Radvansky, 1999) as well as past and current research on communication and persuasion, spontaneous activation of thoughts about oneself and others in a social context, etc.

Shulamith Kreitler, Tel-Aviv University
The Cognitive Guidance of Behavior
The paper will deal with the theoretical and empirical basis of the cognitive guidance of behavior. The basic assumption that attitudes and behavior are related will be presented, followed by brief descriptions of major models which assume that cognitive contents and processes guide behavior, citing their main advantages and weaknesses (e.g., the Health Belief Model, Planned Behavior, Cognitive Orientation).  The final section will address major problems that have remained unresolved and spell out the directions for future developments, for example, clarifying the dependence of the cognitive guidance on types and domains of behavior, the interrelations of the cognitive constructs with personality and emotional variables, and the implications in regard to interventions designed to attain changes in behavior.


Gün Semin, Free University of Amsterdam
The Language of Self and Others in Contexts
This contribution will review the different facets of the language people use when they are describing themselves and others in varying contexts (cultural contexts, as well as social contexts such as school, home, etc.). The tenor of the contribution is the diagnostic value of features of language in uncovering social psychological processes in the description of self and others.

Curtis Hardin, UCLA
On the Pursuit of Self-Contradictions in Self-Theory
Yangs to the yins of the social psychology of the self suggest promising, as yet unfulfilled topics of study.  The utility of the approach is first illustrated by syntheses of the past (e.g., the self is unified and fragmented, stable and fluid).  Several contemporary social psychological truths about the self are then identified as well as their (true) opposites -- e.g., it is agentic, egocentric, and hedonistic as well as passive, other-centric, and masochistic.  Considering heretical opposites of social psychological principles of the self may not only provoke new discoveries, but is a prerequisite of future theoretical syntheses.


Willem Doise, University of Geneva
Societal Psychology: New Challenges and Lessons from the Past
The need for societal psychology was commonly acknowledged at the beginning of the twentieth century. However at the end of the century most researchers in social psychology seem not interested in such analyses. Research findings illustrating the heuristic value of introducing societal analyses in studying social psychological phenomena will be presented. Societal psychology will be tentatively defined as the analysis of individual cognitive functioning in the framework of symbolic relationships with societal issues at stake.

György Hunyady, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest
Social Stereotypes and "Implicit Social Theory"
The concept of "implicit personality theory" is an effective and already established tool in the study of social cognition. It refers to the assumed relationships among the traits, and these assumptions are applied in the course of person perception. The study of stereotypes may lead us to the recognition that such hidden mental relationships exist not only among traits, but among social categories as well. It is possible to reveal by empirical methods, e.g. by the qualitative methods emphasized by William McGuire in particular, that in people’s mind, national categories are linked to occupational categories, and vice versa. Similarly, people do presume relationships between gender and occupation, between social status and political category. A short summary of related research programs leads to the conclusion that that the stereotypical characterization of different categories usually fits mosaic-like into a comprehensive view of society, so that it fits into a system.  Consequently, stereotypes may not be expected to change solely by experience with the members of the category, but it may arise from a re-arrangement of the whole system and its components — as has happened in Eastern Europe in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, when the social-political system was transformed in a historical scale.

Alice Eagly, Northwestern University
The Common-Sense Psychology of Changing Social Groups
McGuire's dynamic theory of thought systems considers judgments of desirability and judgments of likelihood, predicts them separately, and yet considers their interrelations. This talk explores the insights that this theory yields for the study of prejudice toward social groups. In the examination of prejudice, it is useful to distinguish between the perceived likelihood that group members currently have and will have particular characteristics and the perceived desirability of group members having these characteristics. The likelihood aspect is the traditional domain of the study of stereotypes, but the desirability aspect remains neglected. Yet, resistance to social change that ameliorates the situation of disadvantaged groups often follows from beliefs about the undesirability of the changes that have occurred in group members' characteristics and that may continue to occur. In focusing on the relations between likelihood judgments and evaluative judgments, McGuire's postulates illuminate the processes by which prejudices may be reduced.


David Sears, UCLA
Continuities and Contrasts in American Racial Politics
Important changes in American racial politics have been stimulated over the past half century by the civil rights movement of the 1960's and the subsequent surge in immigration from Asia and Latin America. Yet there is also much continuity in racial politics, both at the aggregate and individual level. This paper first reviews recent evidence on a "black-white model" of intergroup relations, with a focus on debates surrounding the theory of symbolic racism. Then the extension of the "black-white model" to the case of the new immigrants, as developed by social structural theories, is counterposed to a "black exceptionalism" perspective that owes its lineage to symbolic politics theory. It ends by reexamining McGuire’s "Seven Koan" in the light of this research.

Shanto Iyengar, Stanford University
Engineering Consent: The Renaissance of Mass Communications Research in Politics
To an extent not previously seen, the use -- even manipulation -- of the mass media to promote political objectives is now not only standard practice, but in fact essential to survival. Because media advocacy has penetrated virtually all governmental arenas, Bill McGuire's work on communication and persuasion is now central to the study of American politics.  My paper will review the theoretical and methodological border crossings between McGuire's communication/persuasion matrix and current research into the impact of political campaigns.


Phoebe C. Ellsworth, University of Michigan
Clapping with Both Hands: Numbers, People, and Simultaneous Hypotheses
This paper will be a meditation on the first koan of McGuire's (1973) "Yin and yang" article: "Koan 1: The Sound of One Hand Clapping... and the Wrong Hand."  I will argue that since 1973 social psychology has moved away from a narrow hypothesis-testing approach, and certainly away from the strategy of falsification (if indeed this strategy was ever taken seriously in our field).   I will worry that the new, descriptive, qualitative research is often not designed in such a way that it will ever generate hypotheses, and that the old hypothesis-testing mode has increasingly moved toward the strategy of confirmation rather than disconfirmation of hypotheses.  I will argue that having (1) a real question, and (2) a real sense of the range of possible answers are the key to good research of all varieties.

Anthony G. Greenwald, University of Washington
The Resting Parrot, the Dessert Stomach, and Other Perfectly Defensible Theories
This chapter builds on a recurring theme in Bill McGuire’s methodological works, the description of researchers' strategies in terms of their potential to facilitate or hinder progress. A common property of many long-unresolved theoretical debates in psychology is the flexibility of the competing theories; they are readily modified to accommodate unanticipated findings. Although theory modification can be desirable, when practiced repeatedly it can make contending theories effectively interchangeable, in turn making their competition illusory. Because theory competitions can be either sustained or resolved by voluntary actions of theorists, there is no way, beyond generalizing from the theorists’ past actions, to predict that a specific theory competition will be sustained in illusory fashion. This makes it a challenge to develop strategies that will protect against the wastes of time, money, and skill that accompany illusory competitions.

Norman H. Anderson, University of California, San Diego
Unified Theory
Unified theory is an empirical reality.  It rests on the axiom of purposiveness, implemented through cognitive algebra.  Purposiveness is properly an axiom, being self-evident, but the long-continued attempts to base psychological theory on purposiveness have made little progress.  Purposiveness is evident in the approach-avoidance tendencies set up by goals; these tendencies impose a one-dimensional representation on complex reality of everyday life, a great simplification and a unique opportunity for quantitative analysis.  Extensive experimental work on Information Integration Theory has shown that approach-avoidance tendencies obey exact algebraic models in virtually every area of social psychology, as well in several other fields, including developmental psychology, judgment-decision, and psychophysics.   Unified theory is thus not a promissory note, but a living reality.

E. Tory Higgins, Columbia University
The Eighth Koan of Progress in Social Psychology: A Variable Annointed as "Special" Will Demand Special Treatment
The social psychology of cognition emphasizes the social principles that provide the context of learning about the world-- the fact that where learning takes place is in the social world. The functionalist perspective emphasizes the fact that people learn about what matters to get along in their world.  The paper is McGuire-like in arguing that to understand the true nature of principles, one has to study their trade-offs. And, indeed, there are always trade-offs rather than good and bad principles.  The first part of the paper will describe the benefits to effective and efficient self-regulation of the cognitive principles of organization, explanation, knowledge activation and use, and the benefits to effective and efficient social interaction of the social principles of role enactment, social positions and identities, internal audiences, and shared reality. The benefits of these social-cognitive principles reveal an important part of what it means to be human. The second part of the paper will illustrate how each of these social-cognitive principles also has costs. The costs of social-cognitive principles are part of what it means to be "only human". By understanding both the benefits and costs of social cognition, we deepen our appreciation of our common humanity.

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