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In Understanding Our Social World We Act As “Intuitive Scientists”. Evaluate This Proposition Drawing Upon Relevant Psychological Research

1520 words - 7 pages

In understanding our social world we act as “intuitive scientists”. Evaluate this proposition drawing upon relevant psychological research.

People seek ‘truths’ in a logical and rational way (as cited in Buchanan et al, 2007, p.106). Social psychologists view people as intuitive scientists from the early stages of life; even as young children, people are constantly trying to investigate their social environment, eventually becoming aware of what social behaviour is acceptable and what is not. As people develop this intuition, we have preconceived ideas and assumptions about people’s behaviour and situations or environments that are encountered. This essay looks at Fritz ...view middle of the document...

The majority of participants described the movement of the shapes, as they would have done if the shapes had been human. For example the words “fighting” and “fleeing” were used (Heider and Simmel 1944). This example supports Heider’s theory, as the participants automatically saw the way the shapes were moving as if they were interacting as people. This ties in with the idea that we use our knowledge of cause and effect in our own social world to understand others and their environment. However, due to the method used in this experiment, it is hard to see how much this would reflect on a real life scenario. Participants would have clearly been aware that this was an experiment and may have reacted differently to the situation they were presented with, compared to them being involved in, or witnessing an everyday behaviour.

Attribution theory looks at how people understand situations and how they interpret and display this in their own thinking and behaviour. Jones and Davis (1965, as cited in Buchanan et al., p.72), looked at how when someone displays a behaviour, attribution theory suggests that, an individual or group will try to understand why that person had that reaction, supporting the idea that people act as intuitive scientists. This therefore assigns one or more causes to that behaviour, whether it was their environment (external disposition) or because of how that individual’s own characteristics affected their reaction to the situation (internal disposition). Harold Kelley (1967, as cited in Buchanan et al., p.72) who developed the covariation model, offered an explanation of how people use given information to create their models of behaviour. Kelly suggested that there are three variables that people analyse before we assign cause or reason: consensus looks at whether people are behaving in a similar fashion; consistency – does the individual in question consistently display this behaviour when presented with the same type of scenario; distinctiveness – does the person behave this way in other situations? Kelly suggests that this shows how people asses how behaviours can differ depending on the situation, so people may not always behave as expected.
Looking at how people analyse different situations in order to adapt (if necessary) their own behaviour, is supported by Heider and Kelley’s work on attribution theory. However, there is also evidence that acknowledges that although people analyse information, they are not necessarily rational when doing so, as not all the information available to them is processed. For example, MacArthur (1972, as cited in Buchanan et al., p.74 suggested that when we try to understand the behaviour of other people we usually seek and favour internal rather than external reasoning. This is referred to as the fundamental attribution error. Jones and Davis (1965) suggest the reason we do this is because internal attributions give the observer more of an idea about an individual....

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